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Local police adapting to a new reality during COVID-19
VANCOUVER -- As we start to see more people on the streets of Metro Vancouver, don't be surprised if among them are more front-line police officers.
"We're maintaining our core services," says Supt. Ghalib Bhayani, officer-in-charge of the North Vancouver detachment. "But front-line is where I’ve focused most of my resources."
North Vancouver’s top cop is happy to report no municipal employees at the 14th Street detachment have fallen ill from COVID-19, but it is a daily struggle. Front-line officers face the biggest risk of being exposed while they patrol the streets during the lockdown.
Police forces across Metro Vancouver have had to employ some creativity as they adapt to the realities of policing during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Who would have thought a pandemic? But it required us to really shift our thinking very quickly. We're looking at about a 25 per cent increase into our deployment on the road," says Bhayani. “We wanted to take away some of that anxiety by putting in extra resources on the front-line to give them a little bit of a mental health reset."
But of course, crime hasn't stayed at home, unlike most British Columbians. In late April, North Vancouver RCMP arrested at least two suspects believed to be responsible for a string of knifepoint robberies that were subject of a public alert earlier in the month.
The Vancouver Police Department is also beefing up its front-line patrol by rotating officers from other divisions and putting them back out on the beat. It also helps provide some relief for those officers.
"We can't stay at home, and social distancing is also very hard. We've changed the reallocation of officers and just kind of rejigged things,” according to Const. Tania Visintin.
In a statement to CTV News, the New Westminster Police Department says changes have been made to enhance the mental and physical health of its front-line staff including some shift changes and temporary reassignments to ensure staffing levels also remain strong.
"I don't sense at this point that there’s much in the way of co-ordination," says SFU criminology professor Dr. Robert Gordon. "So far, the police officers seem to be responding quite well but the big problem is the distribution of police officers across the units in Metro Vancouver. You've got all these different police services and the RCMP layered over the top and they tend to have different approaches to policing issues, especially the RCMP."
So front-line changes will likely depend on where you live.