Join the Chamber


Consumers are 80% more likely to buy goods and services from a Chamber member. Your Membership means business. Join today.

Greater Victoria, BC News


Date ArticleType
8/1/2016 Published Article
Policing our expectations – of police.

As Tent City is being dismantled and its residents relocated, it is perhaps time to reflect whether our expectations of our police forces are realistic.

We expect our police to be on patrol in our community, investigating crimes, enforcing the law and keeping the peace. But we also expect – even demand – that our police keep the downtown clear of panhandlers, the homeless, the mentally ill, or any such individual or situation that might otherwise lead to citizens and visitors feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.

These people are not – more often than not – breaking any laws, harming property, or causing civil unrest. But police still “sweep the streets” because we (through our municipal councils) want our downtown to be welcoming.

Certainly, that potential clients and customers might feel uncomfortable or unsafe is an issue for businesses. People naturally avoid uncomfortable situations. But expecting teams of police officers to wake those sleeping in public spaces, wait until they pack up their belongings and move elsewhere – is that a justified use of trained police officers?

Ideally, we can help street-entrenched population transition to fully-functioning members of society through the provision of housing, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, as well as life skills and employment counseling. Police could remain a key element of the transition using the existing relationships they have with the hard-to-reach street community.

But – we don’t have the supports to fully enable that transition. So we expect police to act as de facto front-line social workers.

Greater Victoria’s cadre of highly-trained and professional police officers have a role to play in building safe communities by enforcing our laws, protecting our property, and keeping civil order. Police give back to our community in so many ways: their time, effort, and sadly too often their lives. We have much to thank them for, and they are richly deserving of our respect.

Instead of expecting police to be the “catch-all” guardians of our communities, perhaps we should be asking our governments – at all levels – what are they doing to enable our police forces to keep focus on core police services, namely crime prevention, law enforcement, and keeping the peace.

There is no question that we need safe communities and a vibrant economy. There is also no question that there is a gap between what policing actually is and what we expect our police forces to do. But it is time to close the gap.

Just because police answer the phone around the clock, doesn’t mean they are always the answer.


Peggy Kulmala is the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s manager of policy and public affairs.

Published August 2016 Business Examiner


Chamber of Commerce Group Insurance Plan University of Victoria Co-operative Education Program and Career Services