Look for police service to improve

Changes at Oak Bay PD follow recommendations, more on way

Oak Bay police Chief Const. Mark Fisher is a certified police bicycle trainer who plans to get more Oak Bay officers on bikes.

The Oak Bay Police Department continues to change the way it does business, after two external reviews identified several deficiencies that were plaguing internal operations and the overall organization.

At the Oak Bay Police Board’s request, retired provincial court judge Alan Filmer launched an operational review, while Vancouver-based RCMP Insp. Alex Graham took stock of the department’s organizational structure. Their findings were released in February.

Many of the recommended improvements were initiated by the department’s interim police chief, Derek Egan, but since taking over as chief constable in July, Mark Fisher continues to make a lot of progress in implementing change.

“I would say the bulk of it is done,” Fisher said. “There is still some tinkering (left to do).”

He plans to add crime maps to the department’s website in the new year to give residents a more accurate picture of what types of crime are happening in different neighbourhoods.

In the department’s 2012 provisional budget, the chief has also requested the hiring of a part-time front desk clerk early in the new year to assist with records management, exhibits and Block Watch duties.

Graham’s review found there wasn’t enough administrative help at the department, leading to overwhelmed members, especially Deputy Chief Kent Thom.

“It means you do what you can in your time here and other stuff may fall off your plate,” Fisher said.

The chief now tackles the budget, while the sergeants have been able to conduct personnel evaluations that were one to two years behind schedule.

“If you have people not getting feedback on how they’re doing and then you try to confront them on it a year later, it’s not very effective,” he said.

The sergeants have also each been assigned traffic, special-event planning, high-visibility policing and patrol portfolios, which Fisher decided should be rotated among them annually.

“I think what’s happening is the sergeants are getting more opportunity to get involved in some of the planning and practical initiatives within the department, which I think is a good thing,” he said.

In keeping with Filmer’s report, the department is also conducting more bike and foot patrols.

“I find the officers are much more engaged with the public if they’re out on the bike or on foot,” said Fisher, a certified police bicycle trainer who instructed two officers in September and plans to train three or four more in the spring.

Internal communications are better and overtime has been reduced, Fisher said. By the end of October, $80,660 had been spent on overtime, compared to $106,685 in 2010.

Officer recruitment has also changed. One of the advantages of hiring Const. Julie Chanin a month ago was her relatively young age – she is still just 39 – coupled with her moderate level of experience. “You can’t have everybody on the brink of retirement,” Fisher said.

Given the enormous amount of change at the department over the past year, he sees things shaping up for 2012.

“The membership (has) been very open to change and (has), in fact, been instrumental in suggesting some of the changes we have implemented. Given that, I think 2012 looks promising.”

emccracken@vicnews.com

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