A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENTLessons Learned and PracticedBy Chief Antje McNeely, President (2020-21)The confluence over the past year of a number of significant matters impacting our communities – the opioid crisis epidemic, the COVID-19 pandemic, the social inequities in our society that continue to come to light, to name just a few – has generated abundant material for lessons to be learned for police leaders. I wrote about this in the Winter 2020/21 issue of H.Q. magazine (“The Year of Living Our Leadership”) and it is something I continue to ponder as we see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Although issues related to addictions, mental health, and systemic racism existed well before the pandemic, the pandemic exponentially magnified the cracks within our chronically underfunded social infrastructure.After the province declared a State of Emergency on March 17, 2020, one of the first responses by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) was to hold weekly Board of Directors meetings with Zone Directors to ensure information was shared in a timely manner between small, medium, and large police services. OACP Committees and Sub-Committees continued to be relied upon as subject matter experts for informed decision-making. There were regular discussions with government officials, police services boards, and police association representatives. In my municipality, a community check-in call with our mayor occurred on a weekly basis; this call also included community leaders from across the city, including those in public health, and helped shed light on how different sectors were being impacted.More frequent meetings were held within our police services between the administration and association executives to ensure that members’ concerns were addressed in a timely fashion and that decisions were based on factual and credible information provided by public health experts. Police services across Ontario quickly adapted to new ways of doing business, with the expanded use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), enhanced workplace sanitization, modified uniformed patrol shifts to ensure a healthy front line, facilitating remote work when possible, and conducting training and meetings on virtual platforms.IN MY MUNICIPALITY, A COMMUNITY CHECK-IN CALL WITH OUR MAYOR OCCURRED ON A WEEKLY BASIS; THIS CALL ALSO INCLUDED COMMUNITY LEADERS FROM ACROSS THE CITY, INCLUDING THOSE IN PUBLIC HEALTH, AND HELPED SHED LIGHT ON HOW DIFFERENT SECTORS WERE BEING IMPACTED.Despite our best efforts, the pandemic continued and second and third waves brought about variants of concern. To address this reality, protracted stay-at-home orders and continuous changes in other emergency orders, including travel restrictions, were instituted through government legislation. The uncertainty and confusion felt by some community members with this prolonged departure from normality has resulted in anti-mask/anti-lockdown demonstrations and a perception of being disproportionately impacted through enforcement. Chiefs of Police/OPP Commissioner and other senior police leaders have been consistent in their messaging about stopping the spread of COVID-19, including being committed to the four “e’s” – engage, explain, educate, and enforce – and that their officers would not conduct random stops of vehicles or citizens. The impact of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of our citizens and police members has only heightened with time, including the fear of bringing home the virus to family members.With new cases of COVID-19 gradually being reduced and more vaccinations being administered, we see a light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, we should never lose sight of the vital lessons that we have learned over the past year:• Opportunities arise through a crisis.• It is essential to look after the mental health and well-being of ourselves and our members while continuing to build and work with our partners in addressing community safety and well-being.• Consistent dissemination, in collaboration with all partners, of factual information in a timely manner helps to build trust and alleviate concerns and fears.• Situational awareness within police organizations, their municipalities, and beyond is integral to the resolution of any community challenge.• None of us are alone in any situation, and together we can make a difference.• Creating new and innovative ways for service delivery should be a regular consideration.• Police leaders must continue to demonstrate compassion, positivity, resilience, and determination to lead their organizations into the future and keep members engaged.• The ability to be adaptive will allow us, as police leaders, to effectively address the challenges that lie ahead.I am truly honoured to have served as President in 2020 and 2021 during the OACP’s 70th anniversary year. Seven decades of serving the people of Ontario is something that we should celebrate and appreciate. In doing so, we need to remember all those police leaders who came before us over the past seven decades. We also need to remember the victims of COVID-19.Chief Antje McNeely is Chief of the Kingston Police and served as OACP President in 2020 and 2021.
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