What type of policing would we want?

When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see Elmer Selin or Walter McCoy walking along Scott Street in the daytime, or one of them or another officer out in the evening as the Royal Theatre unloaded from the seven o’clock showing.
There was a curfew of 9:30 in the evening for those under 16 and being caught after curfew meant that you were given a ride home and your parents were reminded that they were being negligent in having you out after dark.
If the show was even a little bit late, we traveled through every back alley to avoid being met by an officer of the police department.
When they walked the beat or happened to pass through neighbourhoods, they seemed to stop and talk to everyone.
For a while this disappeared, only to reappear later in Fort Frances to answer concerns by downtown business people. Again during the day it wasn’t uncommon to see an officer strolling the four blocks of Scott Street, stopping to talk to merchants, listening to their concerns and finding out what was happening in the community.
When I became a reporter, I began to learn a little about the chief Mike Solomon and his deputy Jack Murray. They seemed to have stomachs made of iron. They had a coffee routine. Mike began is morning shortly after 5:30 in the morning with his first coffee stop for breakfast at the Huddle Café, then later about 7:30 in the morning at the Voyageur Motel, at 10 in the morning at the Rainy Lake and in the afternoon at another coffee shop.
At each stop, the Chief met at a round table with different people.
While the Chief was doing that, his deputy Jack often began his morning at the Makabi, joined a different coffee clatch at the Rainy Lake and in the afternoon participated with a third group at the Fort Frances Hotel. It was how they did some community policing and encouraged their officers to do similar stops with coffee groups through the community. They encouraged their officers to get out of their cars and interact with people. It was expensive.
This summer, through a grant from the province the local detachment of the OPP hired four students and put two of them on bikes patrolling the neighborhoods of the community (the other two got to go on highway and marine patrol). They were highly visible in their pale blue polo shirts. They stopped and talked with young people, often handing out stickers when they witnessed a young person doing something correctly.
Other people in the community also often stopped the student officers.
Over the course of the summer many household break-ins were reported to the police and part of their responsibility was to place warnings on vehicles that were left unlocked. It had a positive result with more people installing security systems in their homes and making sure vehicle doors were locked. Those OPP summer students, by their visibility and access, helped secure the security of homes and vehicles.
Officers spend considerable amounts of time in schools throughout the district with the “DARE” project and try to make young people comfortable in talking to them.
Because of financial and staffing restraints, many of the old time community policing models have been abandoned. Having officers out of their cars, walking in neighborhoods, and talking with people is expensive. Yet once again it is becoming more popular across North America.
The model asks people to share in the responsibility of controlling crime by being more vigilant in neighborhoods, and bringing issues to the attention of police.
Having officers in vehicles often leaves them invisible and inaccessible.
It begs the question, what types of activities would the people of Fort Frances and the Rainy River district like to see from the OPP and similarly, would you be willing to pay more for those policing activities?
What types of things can the OPP do to assist the community in becoming more proactive in trying to reduce incidents of crime and violence instead of being reactive?
The community liaison officers of the department would welcome any suggestions you have.
—Jim Cumming

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