New laws, powers key to effective municipal enforcement, say consultants

The first take away from the 50-page draft report on the Municipal Enforcement Division released on Wednesday is that the authors don’t get down to the short strokes until the final few pages.

For those without the patience to read through it, the report by Vancouver-based consultants Perivale and Taylor answers within the first few paragraphs why bylaw officers don’t do anything about intoxicated people roaming downtown causing anguish to sober citizens: they can’t.

Unless the City can persuade the territorial government to pass enabling legislation, municipal enforcement officers will never be more than mobile metre maids.

Without legislation, and more importantly, a commitment to spend more on recruitment, training and equipment, the strategic plan for a municipal police force sketched out in the report’s executive summary is the stuff of fantasy.

Doing nothing isn’t a realistic option, according to the report, and it will take two or three years to make the changes if city council endorses the recommendations.

“The MED provides an image and representation of the City; and the actions of personnel – regardless of the nature of any enforcement – can contribute the success of the City’s plans,” the report observes.

The report proposes restructuring the MED, enhancement of training and job descriptions, rationalization of policies and procedure, re-assessment of its parking enforcement function, and creation of a Liquor Act inspector “for the protection of vulnerable persons and the removal of illegally possessed liquor.”

Inconsistent, confusing policies

The report’s authors found “inconsistency, and hence confusion, within the various MED policies…The most significant issue concerning mandate and expectations relates to downtown disorder issues, usually attributed to liquor consumption and abuse.”

“Overriding all other considerations is the need for overall strategic direction and accountability,” the report states.

“Without the MED mandate, priorities, and goals being clarified, and without Council-identified priorities, along with an absence of accurate workload data collection or analysis it is not possible to determine appropriate staffing levels.”

“Policies and procedures are inconsistent, fragmented, and not available to the MED Officers,” the report’s authors found.

“It is essential that all policies and procedures are reviewed and revised and combined into one centralized manual format, paper and electronic, which is immediately accessible. Failure to develop such a manual creates risk for MED Officers and a commensurate risk for the City.”

Image Problem

Based on consultations with community leaders, the report’s authors concluded that the MED has an image problem.

“MED is perceived as focused on revenue generation. Revenue generation must not be the raison d’être of a policing or law enforcement function. The mandate of MED is to provide public safety and enforcement services.”

The report notes that other jurisdictions have introduced comprehensive community standards by-laws that cover offences related to ‘public nuisance’ and said those could address the types of disorder and nuisance incidents currently not enforceable in Yellowknife.

It might be necessary to increase MED manpower, but according to the report’s authors “workload statistics are difficult to interpret or provide a rationale base for deployment or determination of resourcing needs.

“Occurrence report numbers do not provide an illustration of the geographic and temporal nature of the work or the outcomes in relation to meaningful priorities and goals,” the report states. Without that information, “it is not possible to determine the optimum number of staff.”

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