“Coffee With a Cop” sheds light on local issues
By Derek Lester, The Post
Original article HERE
A good discussion took place at the Hanover Public Library on the morning of Jan. 10 as a small number of citizens took advantage of meeting with the top two members of the Hanover Police Service to ask questions and voice concerns.
The new, free library event dubbed “Coffee With a Cop” was a good experience for police chief Chris Knoll, recently hired deputy chief George Hebblethwaite and the residents that took part in the one-and-a-half hour conversation as many topics were discussed.
One of the hot topics of discussion surrounded speeding in town as Knoll said this is one of the biggest complaints the police receive.
In October Hanover council approved the purchase of three portable speed-monitoring signs and six brackets to rotate the signs around six problem areas in town. Knoll said these signs have arrived and the deputy chief received training for the equipment on Jan. 9.
The signs are a speeding preventative measure whereas police will be able to collect and examine data the signs record, such as certain time periods – by hour, day, week and month – when speeding is at its highest concern. Then officers on patrol will know the best time to monitor a certain street.
Knoll said officers will be polled as to where the best six locations in town are to set up the signs.
Knoll added traffic enforcement will be a top priority in 2019.
Knoll noted a new federal law as of Dec. 18, 2018 that allows police to pull over any driver at any time and demand they blow into a breathalyzer. Officers are permitted to request a random breathalyzer test as they no longer need probable cause the driver is impaired.
“That’s how we’re tightening up impaired driving,” Knoll said.
Hanover officers have the roadside test equipment with them at all times and in the past have given drivers impaired charges in the early morning hours after a night of consuming alcohol, Knoll cautioned.
To go along with new driving laws, Hebblethwaite briefed the crowd on distracted driving charges.
He noted a first-time distracted driving offence will cost a driver more than $1,000. The charge comes with a $615 fine and three-day driving suspension. After the suspension the driver has to pay a $198 reinstatement driving fee and a $250 administrative monetary penalty. The fines and penalties increase with reoccurring offences.
“When you’re in your car keep your cellphone out of reach,” Hebblethwaite cautioned.
Drivers are permitted to use a cellphone and GPS unit in the vehicle if it is securely mounted, Hebblethwaite said, adding drivers are only permitted to touch the cellphone screen to answer and end calls.
Knoll said when making a traffic stop prior to cellphone use, police looked for “The Big 3” – impaired, speeding and no seatbelt. Now that standard has become “The Big 4” to include distracted driving.
The participating residents were also curious how the legalization of cannabis has affected Hanover and the chief reiterated statements he made in a Dec. 13 story in The Post.
Knoll said he does not support the use of recreational cannabis, but does support the medicinal use prescribed by a medical doctor.
Despite not supporting recreational use, Knoll said he is in favour of having a cannabis retail store in Hanover because now that the drug is accessible and regulated, a physical storefront in town should help alleviate the underground black market and criminal element.
Due to recent provincial regulations, it will be more than a year before a Grey or Bruce County community will have the opportunity to have a cannabis store.
“I honestly never thought I’d see the day where cannabis would be legalized in Canada, but the day is here,” Knoll said.
To date, Knoll said, the legalization of cannabis has not had a significant impact in Hanover with only a few incidents reported.
“I anticipated a bigger issue than what we’ve had,” Knoll said.
Two of the initial objectives being focussed on by Hanover police are to impede impaired driving and keep cannabis out of the hands of youth.
Knoll also spoke about harsher drugs, specifically fentanyl, which a nanogram can kill a person.
He said the fentanyl issue in Vancouver is so bad now that police don’t respond to drug overdose calls anymore unless there is a death involved. There are public volunteers, as well as city police officers, that patrol the streets with naloxone.
Knoll said Hanover officers also have naloxone on hand now.
With technology playing a larger part in society one program that has engaged the local community, and in turn helped the police, has been the “Wanted Wednesday” on Twitter.
Every Wednesday Knoll posts a photo and details of a wanted person on social media, and through tips and assistance from the public, police have picked up a number of the suspects.
“The program has been really successful for us,” Knoll said. “It’s a really powerful tool for us. It shows we have an engaged community here.”
Knoll said he has been asked why he doesn’t post all the wanted suspects at once, and his response is it would be information overload for the public, so it is easier to focus on one at a time. He also doesn’t feature youths under 19 years old.
Knoll added the success of the “Wanted Wednesday” program has also included some suspects turning themselves in when they’ve noticed they were featured. A few suspects have also turned themselves in before appearing on “Wanted Wednesday” as they don’t want their details to appear on social media.
Hebblethwaite recently attended John Diefenbaker Senior School for an anti-bullying session and spoke about different issues this generation faces, specifically with social media.
He noticed youths do not make good eye contact during a conversation as they are used to looking at a phone and texting a conversation.
He suggested interacting face to face with friends more frequently instead of texting and emailing. He also suggested disconnecting from the phone and Internet for a weekend and enjoying hands-on experiences.
Knoll said social media has led to prolonged bullying as in the old days students were able to de-stress and get away from bullying when they got off the bus. But now with social media bullying continues throughout the day.
Over the years mental health issues have been a larger concern and Knoll said policing has evolved to better deal with these circumstances.
Knoll said years ago people with mental health issues felt more criminalized as they were transported by a police cruiser, but now they are transported by ambulance. If requested, police may have a cruiser follow the ambulance to its destination.
Knoll said good work has been done in the Hanover and surrounding area to deal with mental health concerns and WES for Youth Online has been a great initiative.
“One nice thing about policing is it’s always evolving,” Knoll said, adding how they policed in the 1990’s is different now.
As for other policing issues mentioned during the “Coffee With a Cop” session, Knoll said Hanover police deal a lot with tenant/landlord issues and fraud issues, particularly with older adults.
Knoll and Hebblethwaite also spoke briefly about an ongoing investigation concerning a local business that recently fell victim to a cyberattack ransomware scam that was reported in The Post last week.
Knoll concluded the session by stating he likes interacting with the public to hear concerns and share viewpoints from the police. He is also happy to attend and speak to any group with local issues.
Knoll is scheduled to speak again to the public in the Saugeen Room on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. to review the past year in law enforcement in Hanover.
With the success of the first “Coffee With a Cop” session, the library has decided to plan more “Coffee With. . .” sessions that will include different local speakers.
The next session is scheduled for Feb. 21 and will feature “Coffee With the Mayor” Sue Paterson. The mayor and CAO Brian Tocheri will be in the library at 10:30 a.m.