The Cobourg Police Services Board holds regular meetings and the minutes that are available for the public are posted on the Town of Cobourg Civic Web Portal.
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August Board Meeting Introductory Message - Chair Dean Pepper:
Good morning. I would like to start my comments this morning by highlighting and sharing some of the several changes and accomplishments that have happened since last month’s session of July 16th.
Perhaps most significant in terms of its impact going forward is that –on July 26th -the Board publicly announced its acceptance of the resignation of Chief Kai Liu from his position as Chief of Police of the Cobourg Police Services. Kai has retired from Ontario policing systems though has moved on to a similar position with a First Nation self-administered police force-Treaty Three. We wish him well and will join him and his family later this month for an appreciation function being held Tuesday August 27th at 6pm in the Baxter Lounge upstairs here at Venture13.
Also on July 26th and as a direct result of Chief Liu stepping down, the Board was pleased to publicly announce the appointment of former Deputy Chief Paul VandeGraaf as Chief Designate. Both of these decisions were made during the July 16th Board meeting although we weren’t able to share that news for a few more days out of respect for the decision processes of the Treaty Three organization.
Under the Police Services Act, the Board is charged with the duty of appointing a Chief and within that authority ….and with confidence in Paul VandeGraaf…… has done so.
Chief Designate VandeGraaf will be sworn in as Chief of Police during a community gathering on the afternoon of August 15th and we welcome the community at large to such a significant milestone in his career.
Although I’ve said this before through media releases-I think it important to reiterate today that the appointment of Chief of Police Designate Paul VandeGraaf speaks to the strong succession plan the service had in place. The Board considered it a sound business practice to have a forward thinking approach and smooth transition of leadership that allows stability in the organization versus uncertainty. In fact, I think many if not most have the practice of promoting from within like more recently-Kingston, Cornwall, Belleville, Smith Falls, North Bay, Sarnia, Strathroy, Port Hope and now most recently…..Cobourg. A succession plan is a best practice.
This plan has been in place for several years with Chief Designate VandeGraaf having been actively cross-trained-making sure he had the proper experience to prepare him for his responsibilities to lead and further evolve the organization. Multiple training, outreach and professional development opportunities-–all of which Paul VandeGraaf embraced and ultimately excelled.
This includes strategic planning for both core services and our distinct corporate services division…… operational responsibility to prepare and deliver annual budgets which he did successfully with operational expenses being maintained at or below inflation……driving change and efficiencies while designing and adopting new methods and approaches that have resulted in a far more community-focused delivery with innovation in policing at the forefront of his drive.
In addition, he has been very involved in leading our Corporate Services division into a true social enterprise. One that applies innovative business strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social, and environmental well-being for others. This division provides us unparalleled flexibility to invest back into innovation both within the business unit itself as well as innovation in core policing services and community safety. The non-taxation revenue generated poises our service to reinvest in contemporary technologies and systems …..Advancing us rapidly forward while minimizing the financial burden on tax-payers. It is the synchronization of both divisions that ensures the viability of “small town” policing in response to our community’s changing needs.
The Board is pleased that Paul accepted the challenge to lead the service and we’re confident he will ensure we meet our goals in protecting and serving the community with quality policing. Paul has proven over time that he has a clear understanding of our vision and approaches every situation with the service’s mission in mind. The Board has absolute confidence Chief of Police Designate VandeGraaf will continue to take our service to the next level.
Again, we invite the community to also attend his swearing in ceremony that affirms his position on August 15th. Paul, I will say that many in the community have reached out to myself and other Board members to express their unbridled delight in you having assumed the leadership of the Cobourg Police Service and we look forward to working closely with you to continue to evolve the service forward.
Perhaps not as major news……but certainly important …….I would like to mention a few other items this morning.
First…….the Board members have continued their orientation sessions via “ride alongs” with Cobourg Police constables. The majority of Board members have now ridden alongside our officers as they executed their duties. I thank the Board members for your ongoing interest and dedication to executing your governance duties with such enthusiasm. I think all of these events happened during late evening or overnight shifts where Board members experienced what officers do. It’s such an important opportunity to understand the work and realities of the front line while also providing a direct communication pipe-line from the officers to the Board. Generally, what we have seen is high quality policing with officers firmly dealing with a variety of situations with compassion and excellence. We will be continuing occasional ride alongs as an important strategy for staying abreast of what is happening in the community while providing opportunities for officer voice to be directly heard.
Another event that happened this month was the conclusion of the YMCA and Cobourg Police golf camp. Working with partners, like the YMCA, is an integral strategy of our community policing philosophies. Essentially, we support the systemic use of partnerships to proactively be involved with our community ……long before conditions may ever rise that may lead to public safety challenges such as crime, social disorder or even fear of crime. In this case, working with kids in friendly and fun ways helps to connect our service and policing to positive experiences, thoughts and outcomes.
Another partner event this month was working with Cobourg Canadian Tire to increase awareness of keeping our youth safe while on their bicycles. If an officer saw a child who appeared to be under the age of 16 riding without a helmet-the officer used the chance to talk about the importance of safety while some children received a free helmet. Canadian Tire safety partnerships are not exclusive to bikes since we have offered multiple car seat clinics earlier in the year. It’s a great partnership with mutual goals of keeping the community safe. A partnership we hope to continue.
A final major partnership event was the launch of the Cornerstone #shecouldbe campaign where our police leadership was heavily featured as part of the campaign. Unfortunately, family violence is here in Cobourg. Taking a stand in working with partners proactively to end or at least mitigate it, is crucial for our community policing model. Cobourg Police are represented on the Cornerstone Board of Directors and are active in isolating and supporting many opportunities where we can work together to address this important community challenge.
I was pleasantly surprised to see on Facebook a community comment that said quote “Thank you to the Cobourg Police for being involved in such an important cause. You really are so great at being involved in your community. Such a caring Police Force. God bless you all.”
If you didn’t catch that-let me just point out that I have listened to feedback recently received and have invested personal time to review various social media platforms to make sure I see things for myself rather than just summaries. While I don’t personally have or post to social media accounts – that doesn’t mean I can’t and don’t observe.
My overall impression is that there is great good that can be done on various social media platforms to make sure the public is well-informed, engaged and positively heard and supported.
At the same time, platforms can be forums for unregulated mistruths, misinformation, little cooperation and minimal civil discourse. That is unfortunate but is a reality that is outside any Board’s control-any organization.
In our case we are expected to uphold legislation and in fact are legally bound via a myriad of legislation that is not limited to the Ontario Police Act…..Employment and Human Rights……Privacy Legislation……Victims Bill of Rights…..and so on.
With multiple legislated duties in mind-we are sometimes not able to specifically address what seems …….sometimes ….like targeted misinformation or perhaps even what some consider fear mongering…….while others consider some statements as libelous. I know I have personally been contacted multiple times from community members who are dismayed at what they perceive to be negative and uncollaborated misinformation. They question the motive which of course I wouldn’t know.
However, with judgment, I do suggest that we accept the reality of social media platforms in providing opportunity to hear primarily a positive voice from the community and also from ourselves. We can monitor the negative as important as well. Community voice –both positive and negative-is to be taken seriously though not personally. The Board expects to be presented next month with a communication plan by our communications officer and I am sure these kinds of systemic challenges will or should be addressed.
In the interim, I do thank last month’s delegation for inspiring me to take a closer look. While I don’t intend to open personal accounts I do commit from time to time to personally monitor with respect. I am also optimistic that respect for the Board and the Cobourg Police Service -its goals, strategies, outcomes and legal duties will also be considered equally important by fair minded and well informed citizens.
And keeping on the theme of well-informed citizens, I want to personally invite the public to our next Community Meeting scheduled for Wednesday September 18th, 7:00 p.m.-Venture13. Occasional community meetings are included in our current Cobourg Police Services Business Plan and this seems like good timing as we end a busy summer and head into the fall period. This will be our second community information session. The goal is to provide citizens the opportunity to be kept informed where overall strategies and updates will be shared as a pathway to continued transparency and accountability. It is also a wonderful opportunity for the general public to meet the new Chief of Police, his senior administration and Board members, providing another opportunity for increased understanding and open, respectful two-way dialogue.
Finally, this morning we have another delegation which I am personally pleased to see. I think it important for the community to be engaged in community safety. To care. While a policing system is not solely responsible for community safety…..which is why we work so closely with multiple partners……..we certainly are integral and community delegations are both encouraged to come to any Board meeting and are welcome.
Certainly it is another chance to hear community voice along with the many others we receive both internally and externally from our officers, civil staff, partners and community at large through a variety of ways. All of which keep us motivated and inspired to continue to deliver and improve community safety in efficient and effective manners.
This delegation has followed our published policies in providing their presentation in advance and have outlined five specific questions. Chief Designate VandeGraaf will be addressing most of your questions and we thank you in advance for the opportunity to provide as robust answers as we possibly can. Everyone should be aware though, we are restricted within legislation such as the Police Services Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in certain areas. Given the amount of misinformation circling, we are not going to withhold any information unless specifically identified by one of the Acts just named.
We appreciate your attendance and the opportunity to hear and address your input as reasonably possible.
Thank you and welcome to all.