Police in the Regions: Initiatives to Build Bridges (Part II)

Many police projects are aimed at trying to bring police and the public closer together. With these often original initiatives, police want the public to feel more secure, and prevent crime.

By Marie-Claude Simard

Here is a short survey of some of the programs launched by different Quebec police forces. Some of these initiatives are on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gatineau

The Gatineau police recently took home several prizes for their shock campaign Garde ça pout toi (Keep it for yourself), in which they use humor to educate young people about the consequences of sexting and the risks of sextortion. According to the Gatineau police (SPVG), one in three teens has either sent or received a “sext.” In other words, one in three teens could be accused of the production, possession and distribution of juvenile pornography.

“That means that if you send photos of tes boules, ta queue or ta chatte, as soon as you’ve sent a photo or a video of something intimate on your body, you’ve broken the law,” is the SPVG’s message.

The awareness campaign also gives teens “photo-replies” evoking the form of sexual organs – bowling balls, a lizard’s tail, a pussy cat, etc. – to send to people soliciting photos of their private parts. Unusual images designed to get people to reflect upon the consequences of sexting.  

Kuujjuaq

The Kativik Regional Police Force, in collaboration with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, have started the Good Touch/Bad Touch program. Adapted to Inuit culture, these workshops, held in the Inuktitut language, educate children on inappropriate or violent physical contact.

The intervenors explain to them that they don’t have to submit to touching that they find uncomfortable. They are also provided with the tools necessary to confide in adults they trust, and to get out of bad situations.

As well, elementary school students are made aware that they’re not responsible for the violence they are victims of. The key is to set limits, and to talk about them.   

Trois-Rivières

In a McDonald’s or a Tim Horton in their town, Trois-Rivières residents may have the surprise of their life when a law enforcement officer refills their coffee cup. Once a month since 2016, the Trois-Rivières police service (SPTR) organizes a Prendre un café avec un policier (Have a coffee with a police officer) activity. The goal is to encourage communication between citizens and police.

“The public really likes it,” says Carole Arbelot of the SPTR. “We send patrol officers who aren’t in the habit of being complimented. It’s encouraging for them to talk with people outside of emergency calls or ticketing.”

Recently, the program was enlarged to encompass seniors’ residences and schools. “In the more multiethnic schools, we talk with young immigrants who are curious as to how the police operate here,” says Arbelot.

It’s a nice way to humanize police officers. First seen in the United States, this program has been adopted by several other forces in Québec.

Bromont

The Bromont police have created, in the police station parking lot, a neutral meeting zone to allow citizens to proceed with transactions in a safe way. This area, identified by a sign, is under video surveillance 24 hours a day.

The Neutral Zone was put in place to fight frauds and assaults when there’s a sale or an exchange of goods. For example, when a transaction begins on the web, it can be finalized safely at this site. The place can also be used by parents in joint custody situations when communications are strained.

The exchanges aren’t directly observed by police, but recordings of video surveillance are kept for two weeks. Anyone can use this space for free. Other police forces have followed Bromont’s lead, including that of Sherbrooke.

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 3, avril (April) 2021, pages 26-27

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