Monday, June 29, 2015

Coming out of the storm - A SafeGrowth Summit

Announcing 2015 SafeGrowth Summit

The post Great Recession years in this first part of the 21st Century carry great change, much of which fires the turbulence we see around us this summer.

A US President sings a eulogy following a racial massacre. American cities simmer in urban discord following police shootings. Broken windows and stop-and-frisk remain incendiary police tactics. And in Britain and Australia, quota-driven policing is seen for the sham that it is.

It's hard to imagine a more apt time to remember Haruki Murakami's words from his book Kafka on the Shore.

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

In response to the turbulence we just launched a three-pronged reply:
  1. An upcoming SafeGrowth Summit,
  2. A new SafeGrowth website with a network of SafeGrowth advocates, services, events, and answers
  3. A  police recruit training book by Gerry Cleveland and myself - You In Blue - outlining the shape of  21st Century policing. 
Check them out. We can choose our way out of this storm. That's what it's all about!

Blackstone Mountain Lodge, Alberta - Venue for 2015 SafeGrowth Summit

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Toronto tops safe cities index - but should it?

Night in Toronto - Rated best?
GUEST BLOG: Kallan Lyons is community development coordinator for a Toronto non-profit organization that provides affordable housing and support services for the homeless. In 2013 she spent six months in Ghana as a media trainer at the African University College of Communications. Prior to that she was contributor to the editorial board of the Whig Standard, the daily newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, and a reporter for Queen's Television. She has also blogged for Journalists for Human Rights.  


This year The Economist ranked Toronto one of the best places to live in the world, topping the charts in the 2015 Safe Cities Index.

I’ve called Toronto home for the past three years and recently moved to a newly gentrified neighbourhood in the west end. Crime rates have dropped and the local mall and subway station have been revitalized. Dufferin Station commuters now boast about the beautiful glass building and well lit buses that give their neighbourhood the glam it never had.

Interior wall foyer of new Dufferin Subway station
A 2009 survey revealed that 93 percent of Canadians feel safe from crime, and thus immune to crises in the United States such as the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

Yet in 2012 an armed man opened fire at a downtown Toronto mall killing two people and injuring several others. One woman who escaped was a young American who blogged: "Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I'd experience a violent crime first hand." Tragically she was killed in the Aurora shooting just months later, a fate she almost encountered in Toronto.


In 2013 Toronto again made national headlines. In my own recently gentrified neighborhood police shot to death an 18-year old Syrian man – Sammy Yatim – while he was alone on a streetcar after he drew a knife. What resulted echoed the aftermath surrounding the shooting in Ferguson. Torontonians erupted into a public outcry. Support poured in for the victim as faith in those who safeguard our community dwindled.

The result was a second-degree murder charge for the officer who killed Sammy Yatim.

This all emerged during a controversial "carding" program – contact information cards filed by police after street checks. Many minority community members denounce carding as a racially discriminatory program.

Toronto's revitalized Dufferin transit station
Safety is not just about gentrification. It’s about community and collaboration. There needs to be more community driven action and dialogue. Toronto may be rated one of the safest cities but we have a long way to go before public trust in our police is restored.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Police futures - A PBL conference in Madison

Madison, Wisconsin is one of those rare gems - a small city, a university town, nestled on northern lakes. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace graces the waterfront. Designed by Wright in 1938, it met opposition until final construction in 1997. A good idea, it seems, persists.

The University of Wisconsin in Madison was the perfect location for the annual Police Society for Problem Based Learning (PBL) conference where I attended this week.

Police PBL conference venue - the University of Wisconsin South Union 
I was impressed by this year’s amazing group of future-thinking police instructors at the conference. They explored PBL and showed how to keep the community at the core of training.


President Obama’s recent Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing makes that very point when it claims PBL “encourages new officers to think with a proactive mindset, enabling the identification of and solutions to problems within their communities.”

Given the depressing police news of late, this message was elixir for the soul.

We heard from one police agency implementing the PTO 2.0 street training program, a PBL replacement for obsolete field training known as FTO.

We heard from keynote speaker Michael Scott, director of the Center for Problem Oriented Policing, who connected some PBL dots. Mike is a long-time supporter of the police PBL movement and he drew a line connecting Herman Goldstein’s problem-oriented policing method and the PBL style of learning.


Professor Herman Goldstein also attended the conference and mingled with attendees throughout, offering participants golden opportunities to rub shoulders with a giant in the world of police scholarship. Few have contributed as much to great policing as Herman Goldstein.

Afternoon walk along Monona Terrace waterfront
I came to Madison after co-teaching emotional intelligence with Gerry Cleveland to the staff of the Law Enforcement Training academy in South Dakota. In You In Blue Gerry and I write about the impressive gains in South Dakota with their academy staff and curricula.

From this latest PSPBL conference and its problem-solving POP cousin, and from the South Dakota academy, I hope we are finally glimpsing the rebirth of American police training.  A good idea, it seems, persists.