The Swift Current RCMP municipal detachment has not experienced a significant change in calls for service since the implementation of public health measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, but officers had to carry out some additional duties in relation to the pandemic.
Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges presented the community policing report to a regular council meeting that took place via video conference, June 15.
“Our calls for service have remained relatively consistent during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Provincial traffic enforcement dropped off a little bit in the month of April, which was to be expected with the minimal amounts of traffic we saw in the community with everybody staying at home and staying in small groups.”
The community policing report for May indicated there were only three reportable vehicle accidents compared to 11 in May 2019 and 13 in May 2018.
The additional time that people spend at home due to the pandemic restrictions created situations that caused a few additional incidents of domestic violence. This was recorded in the RCMP data as a small increase in the number of assaults.
“Looking at those a little bit closer, this increase was attributed specifically to a few more domestic violence calls,” he said. “I wouldn't say it was out of control, but we did see a slight increase in that area. The investigators remain vigilant in engaging victim services and other government agencies during these calls for service to make sure that the victims were looked after, as we would normally do during those times, as best as those agencies could under the restrictions they were functioning under as well.”
According to the community policing report, there were 22 incidents of assault, excluding sexual assault, in May 2020. For the same month in 2019 there were 17 reports of assault and in May 2018 there were 23 incidents.
Staff Sgt. Hodges spoke about specific activities carried out by the detachment in relation to the COVID-19 public health measures during the period March 19 to May 31.
“During that time period the City detachment dealt with 57 COVID related occurrences within the city of Swift Current,” he said. “These occurrences included monitoring 15 different individuals that have been identified to us by Ottawa under the federal Quarantine Act, which requires members to attend these individual's residence up to four times during the quarantine period of 14 days, if it was right from the first day they came back to Canada from international travel, to make sure they're abiding by the act as a result of their international travels.”
Officers were able to deal successfully with all 57 calls for service in relation to the public health orders to ensure compliance and no charges were laid against anyone.
“We obviously took a priority approach on educating the community,” he said. “We, along with everybody else, had the number one priority to keep the curve flat, which I think we've all been successful in accomplishing to this date.”
Officers continued with their regular duties during this time period from mid-March to the end of May, and responded to the usual calls for service. They executed four search warrants during this period with regard to drug activities in the community and they seized a large number of different drugs, cash, drug paraphernalia, and firearms, as well as some stolen property.
The COVID-19 public health restrictions had an impact on the community activities of the Swift Current RCMP detachment. The detachment had to suspend all requests for community presentations after the pandemic restrictions came into effect in March.
“We had a number that were planned with different organizations around the community, which unfortunately we had to suspend, and hopefully we can pick those up once things change with the public health orders,” he said.
The closure of schools caused changes to the duties of the detachment’s school liaison officer, Const. Tony Curti. He initially continued to work day shifts while educating youth in the community about the public health measures.
“In an attempt to assist in educating the youth in the community on social distancing and restricting numbers of individuals permitted outside gatherings, we utilized his knowledge of the kids in the community and his relationship with them to assist just in the education piece,” Staff Sgt. Hodges said. “Once the education process had passed, those calls for service had dropped off, everybody was figuring out how to function in this new normal, and we moved him back into the regular shift rotation for the time being to assist the other members with calls for service around the detachment.”
The Swift Current RCMP municipal detachment has been closed for public access since March 19 due to the need to ensure the safety of employees in the building.
“We had to lock the doors to maintain the number of individuals both in the lobby as well as the reason that they attended the detachment,” he said. “Clear instructions are located on our front door still to advise the public of how to contact and access the police if needed. This also included non-criminal fingerprinting only being conducted for those seeking to volunteer or employment positions with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.”
Staff. Sgt. Hodges indicated the detachment might soon start to implement a reopen plan to allow public access to the building under certain guidelines.
“The commanding officer for F Division or the province of Saskatchewan and his senior executive have submitted a reopen plan for all the detachments across the province, and we're just waiting for approval from Ottawa for that before we can move forward with some sense of normalcy,” he said.
Councillors expressed their appreciation towards Staff Sgt. Hodges for the work done by detachment staff to keep the community safe during the pandemic.
“It's very encouraging to hear that all 57 of the COVID related issues that you responded to resulted in no charges,” Councillor Chris Martens said. “It's very encouraging to know that the members of the community have been doing exactly what everybody has been encouraging. So flatten the curve, stay safe, stay home, do what you need to do.”
Mayor Denis Perrault felt the first few weeks of the public health restrictions were the most difficult period, because people were uncertain about all the details of these measures. Some people contacted the mayor’s office for information about these restrictions and he thanked Staff Sgt. Hodges for helping to provide details about these measures.
“I want to say thank you for always keeping your cool and always working your best alongside your provincial counterparts to try to get the information back to us as quickly as you could,” Perrault said. “I think the hardest part in all of COVID is just the information. You get a little bit of a piece and you try to make decisions with that information and it obviously makes for some risks and some conflicts, and so for me as the mayor of the city I want to say thank you. Thank you for working together with me so we could try to get answers for the members of our public and I'm grateful to know that there were no charges laid during that time.”