By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – A new online survey will trigger significant changes to the way police enforce the law in Cornwall.
© Adam Brazeau
Pictured are Pierre Pilon, CCPS staff sergeant, and Blake Paquin, CCPS public relations representative.
Residents are weighing in on the Cornwall Community Police Service (CCPS) Board’s Strategic and Business Plan, which will shape local policing for the next three years.
City cops held two public consultation meetings this week, where officers spoke face-to-face with community members.
Twenty-two Cornwallites shared their thoughts on policing issues and answered the 11-question survey for the 2014 – 2016 plan.
Cornwall police officers armed with large white papers and markers took notes as residents identified top policing priorities.
Cornwall police will be taking all the new information compiled from public meetings and the results of their online survey, which wraps up on March 27, to a two-day session in order to make "educated goals" for the next three years.
Blake Paquin, CCPS public relations representative, considered the small turnout a positive indication of local residents being satisfied with their current direction, as opposed to long lineups of people eager to deliver an earful of complaints.
"Chief (Dan) Parkinson is a firm believer that if people have something to say they will come," said Paquin.
He insisted that public consultations are still necessary since community members get the opportunity to speak one-on-one with officers.
The other factor behind tepid attendance is the increase of communication over the Internet.
Eighty-five people completed the online survey before the second public meeting wrapped up.
During the previous CCPS strategic and business plan, 103 people were involved and 90 residents attended the public meetings. Only 13 had completed the online survey.
"We're very excited about the online numbers this year," he said. "It's an indication of the changing of times."
Paquin described previous public consultations as a presentation from the police chief based on statistics and charts with a feedback component.
The innovative concept of adding transparency through direct communication with Cornwallites and police officers developed from a partnership with Donna Silver-Smith, manager of Corporate Learning & Performance Improvement at St. Lawrence College.
Silver-Smith was brought on as the plan's consultant in light of her previous work with the city's new strategic plan last summer.
"She inspired us to listen to the people instead of giving our ideas first and then hearing them come back to us," said Paquin.
According to Silver-Smith, Parkinson was heavily involved with the city's plan and wanted to replicate the same level of transparency.
"Imagine the delight of a person to hear their voice is going to be heard directly by officers," she said.
On Feb. 26, more than 10 officers were ready to take notes in a large gymnasium at Centre Emile-Charles Claude.
"We want to hear from the public, what their concerns are and what our priorities should be," said Paquin.
The first person through the door was Chuck Charlebois, founder of Groupe Renassaince Group.
Charlebois said his association with the Le Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) located in the city's east end has kept him in close touch with the work and politics of the Cornwall Community Police Service.
"The problems in our community can only be solved if you're involved. So, I'm here," he said. "They (CCPS) have to have this level of transparency in order to engage the community."
His concerns were focused on youth retention. But Charlebois couldn't help mentioning the waterfront.
"Can you help with the tank problem? They did break a by-law," he asked.
Detective Kurt Fraser and Constable Chris Sullivan were unable to help with that request, but were eager to address his other recommendations.
"We have vested interests because we live and work here, too," said Sullivan.
Fraser has been with the Cornwall police for 27 years and has seen first-hand the difference the new strategic and business plan can have on the city.
"Most things people say goes right into the plan," he said.