Police response to mental health, social issues will keep changing, outgoing chief says

·2 min read
Fredericton police Chief Roger Brown is retiring this Friday. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)
Fredericton police Chief Roger Brown is retiring this Friday. (Ed Hunter/CBC - image credit)

Outgoing Fredericton police chief says the change in how police respond to social issues like homeless and mental health has only just begun.

"We're going to see the policing model change, whereby the police, hopefully, will be doing what we are paid and trained to do," said Chief Roger Brown, who's retiring from his role as chief of Fredericton Police Force on Friday.

Brown said he's seen a lot of changes in his career since he started in the 1980s.

The described the most recent changes, inspired by the "defund the police" movement, as interesting, he said. For example, the movement calling for police reform played a role in his hiring of four social workers and supporting them on calls about people struggling with homelessness.

"A lot of people that are living rough, the police involvement there is really not what we're best trained to do," he said.

"Living rough is not a crime."

Brown said it's likely that residents will see police working with other professionals, whether it be on the social side, the mental health side, or addictions, to get at the "root cause problems as opposed to just symptoms of the problem."

Brown said there will still be a need for policing when it comes to Fredericton's "meth problem."

Oorganized crime, an increase in weapons used by people involved with the drug trade, and an increase in violence mean police will need support from governments and the public.

"That requires a different level of training, equipment, intervention from the policing perspective," he said. "It's getting tougher."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

Martin Gaudet will replace Brown. He previously told CBC News he plans on building on what Brown has already started, especially his plan to put more officers out on patrol.

Gaudet also said he will continue to work with community advocates to address homelessness in the city.

In the last few years, Brown had moved from forcing people out of homeless encampments and tents, to sanctioning the tent area and assigning officers to monitor it.

Brown said it's more important now to regain the trust of the public because police have been increasingly under scrutiny.

"We have to be able to put in place systems and processes that allow for transparency that ensure the public that investigations are done properly," he said. "That are being done, you know, without bias and fairly."