Police officers often face people at the worst moments of their lives — and they come across those moments almost every day.
So, it’s a significant change of pace when they can sit with regular people and listen to their stories and ideas about how to make their community a better place — and potentially prevent some of those worst moments.
That was the case this week as members of the Sidney North Saanich RCMP met with their neighbours at Serious Coffee on Beacon Avenue in Sidney. For a few hours, they sat and chatted with people who wanted to discuss a variety of issues — and even gave a tour of a police car.
Corporal Chris Manseau and Constable Meighan de Pass are part of the local RCMP detachment’s community outreach. Manseau is the department’s public affairs officer and de Pass is its community policing liaison. They said hearing from people can either reinforce the local police’s goals, or help them change direction if necessary.
For instance, police have been involved with the municipality and ICBC in the recent past, handing out reflectors to pedestrians. It’s hoped that will help prevent collisions between people and vehicles in local crosswalks — especially at night in during inclement weather. Manseau said many of the people they had coffee with are worried about more than that — specifically that crossing times are not long enough for many of Sidney’s older residents, and the fact that some drivers simply do not stop, or look, when they reach a crosswalk.
Manseau said while the police can use their regular patrols to look at driver habits, they don’t control how crosswalks are set up. However, since they meet with municipal officials often, it’s a concern they can pass on to them.
De Pass said that hearing from people in an informal setting helps create better relationships with police. She added people’s response to police officers, in general, is usually very positive on the Saanich Peninsula. That’s probably due, in past, to their profile — visible because of initiatives such as seasonal bike and foot patrols, as well as police involvement in the community. She said she recently attended a meeting at the SHOAL Centre in Sidney, discussing various topics with people there.
The local RCMP have set themselves up to succeed with the community, not only by having coffee. They have a consultative group, and include citizens in regular discussions. They also work with many volunteers — such as Block Watch, Citizens on Patrol, Speed Watch and others. De Pass noted that these relationships contribute to a safer community, where neighbours are looking our for each other.
And it doesn’t stop with a coffee date. Manseau said events like this help reinforce that police are approachable, are normal people and are there to listen.