Public police

“Public are the police. The police are the public.”

Senior Constable Anthony Thompson is quoting from the principles laid out by Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Metropolitan Police in London in 1829. Thompson is the Calgary Police Service’s Community Resource Officer for Cranston, Auburn Bay, Mahogany, Copperfield, and New Brighton.  In that job, he is a big believer in Peel’s Principal Number 7, and therefore a supporter of growing so called “connected” communities.  A connected community is one made up of neighbours who know each other.

 “A connection only happens when there’s trust, you know, connection is built on that trust, that faith in one another, that you’ve got each other’s back and you’re looking out for one another. “

Constable Thompson became a Community Resource Office in November of 2018 after a dozen years with the Calgary Police and his approach to the job is a little different.  “As a Community Resource Officer, I am accountable to my management team: my sergeant, a staff sergeant, inspector, superintendent, right up to the Chief. But I work for the people in the areas I take care of. At the end of the day, my job is to engage my community.”

Thompson has a desk at the District Eight office on Midpark Way, but you are more likely to find him setting up a temporary “Pop Up Cop Shop” at the Mahogany Beach Club or meeting with volunteers from the ACCM (Abundant Community Copperfield-Mahogany). District Eight is huge. It extends as far north as Douglasdale, south to the Bow River, west to 85thStreet and east to just past 104thStreet.  On any given day, there can be fewer than a dozen officers on patrol in the whole District. So the police want people in the neighbourhood to be looking out for each other. “They are not watching on each other,” says Thompson. “They are watching for each other.”

He cites an example that was a revelation to the newly-minted Community Resource Officer. He heard complaints about the off-leash area at 52ndStreet and Stoney Trail such as owners not picking up after their dogs, and animals being under poor control in the park. He put out the word via social media that there were bylaws governing such behavior, possible hefty fines for offenders, and nothing that would stop a uniformed officer from dropping by to ensure compliance. He sat back expecting to be criticized for paying attention to such a minor problem. Instead, there was a flood of support. “Sometimes there’s a divide between what professionals think is important to people and what people think is important to people.”

Sometimes, Thompson is simply there to provide reassurance. One lady approached him to talk about cars parking on her quiet crescent. The people inside never got out of their vehicles. Instead they were fixed on their phones and after a while would drive away. She was afraid to approach them to ask what they were up to. A patrol car checked it out and discovered a spirited game of Pokemon-Go.  

Thompson’s latest campaign in Zone Four is one called “Shine A Light on Shady Activity”. If neighbours see something odd, call about it.  “On two separate occasions, we’ve caught car prowlers in the area simply by people saying, ‘That doesn’t look right. It’s two in the morning. Why is that person walking around out there?’ They call us, boom, we’re there and we’ve got them.”

Sir Robert would be pleased.

Article written by: Jeff Collins

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