Paul Pedersen says modern policing is about more than making arrests
Paul Pedersen, who was introduced Wednesday afternoon at a special meeting of the Police Services Board at Tom Davies Square, said his priority will be further redefining how police and other social organizations can work together to promote community safety.
Under his predecessor, Frank Elsner, police initiated a number of new approaches that got away from simple enforcement. For example, under the Zone 30 program, police identify high-risk areas and send community officers in to build relationships with people in the neighbourhood. In turn, they get to know the areas, residents trust and speak with them, allowing officers to identify problems before they happen.
In the Louis Street area, for example, the model has worked so well, calls to police have dropped from several a day to a handful a month.
Another approach saw police divert mental-health cases to a clinic operating extending hours, rather than having police spend hours in the ER waiting for an evaluation.
“(So) it isn't just about making it bigger and building an empire,” Pedersen, 52, told reporters. “In many cases, a dollar spent on housing can fight crime better than a dollar spent on policing. So we have to have that conversation.”
While approaches to policing are changing, Pedersen said the goal is the same: for residents to feel at ease and be secure as they go about their daily lives.
“We all have the same interests. Who doesn't want to wake up in the morning and feel safe? And be able to walk their dog at night and feel safe?”
His biggest challenges, he said, was getting to know the community after spending most of his 34-year career in the York Region, as well as getting to know the police force he now leads.
“I've got 34 years of credibility in York Region. I have to start from square one here,” he said. “(But) it couldn't feel more right. Everything has come together so smoothly.”
Board chair Gerry Lougheed Jr. said the hiring process was exhaustive, with the head-hunting firm eventually presenting them with 12 candidates, of whom seven were interviewed. Among the seven was an internal candidate, he said.
“So we had internal candidates, and names from coast to coast to coast,” he said. “From those seven, we invited three back for a second interview.”
Every candidate was asked the same questions, and the board went through a detailed evaluation process before deciding on Pedersen.
“Paul was our unanimous choice,” he added. “Paul's passion for policing is evident when you meet him.”
In addition to policing, he's been involved with organizations such as the Special Olympics Summer Games, Youth Challenge International, YMCA Strong Kids Program, Iron Cops for Cancer, Soup Kitchen, and as a soccer club coach. He's also a triathlete, and has written academic papers on such topics as domestic violence, community policing and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
While he hails from southern Ontario, Pedersen said he already feels comfortable here.
“It feels like I belong; it feels like I'm home,” he said. “I'm so thrilled to call Sudbury home. As soon as I find a house.”
While he's bringing his own skills to the job, he said he knows importance of preserving what's already working.
“And there is so much already working in this organization,” Pedersen said. “They've been doing things in terms of community mobilization perspective that the rest of the province is just catching on to.
“I can help this organization move forward – without throwing the baby out with the bath water … I'm not taking York Region and bringing it to Sudbury.”
But with crime rates falling locally and across Canada, and with a larger and larger share of police budgets going to staff salaries, Pedersen said there are clear challenges ahead.
“Hiring more police officers will never be the sole solution to community safety,” he said. “It's equally impractical to say that we can reduce numbers and maintain service levels.”
Greater Sudbury Police Facts:
2014 budget: $51.2 million
2007 budget: $38.8 million
Percentage spent on salaries in 2014: 90%
Number of officers: 264
Non-policing staff: 111