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Transcript for Video
DET. CONST. BOB LOMOND
Several years ago when I first went into the intelligence unit, I received a call from a parole officer here in Halifax who had a working relationship with the National Parole Board, and the Board basically wanted to know if myself and other intelligence officers could come in and present to the Board members on crime trends in our areas.
Some of the Board members were asking, 'I had an offender a couple of weeks ago, and they referred to an area in Halifax, he says, Uniack Square. What is Uniack Square? … Jelly Bean Square? The Buildings? Gaza Strip, Spryfield, and all these areas in our city that the offender would say, 'I was born and raised there. You don't know what it's like to live in this area.'
So I said come on down to Halifax. We'll do a ride-along.
Retired Halifax police detective Bob Lomond knows the Parole Board of Canada relies on many partners in the criminal justice system, including the police. He knows that information and cooperation are critical to building a complete picture of the offender. As an independent decision-making tribunal, the Parole Board needs information about offenders in order to properly assess their risk to re-offend.
We put a lot of time and effort into arresting, charging and sending people through the judicial system, and if they get a federal sentence and they're released from custody way before they should be, we're the first ones to complain, 'Why is that person out?'
We have to know that, in reviewing all the information, whether there's the police report, the judge's comments, the psychological or psychiatric reports from the institution, the institutional reports regarding programming, his behaviour in the institution ... the information that we're studying on each case, these are critical components of how we assess risk. Is that risk going to be able to be managed in the community? We can't, for example, deny an offender's parole based on our gut feelings. We have to be able to say, this is what the issue is.
Getting a clear picture of the offender is one of the Parole Board's most important goals. Information is crucial. It leads to quality conditional-release decisions and greater public safety.
We will not release anybody if we feel that all the factors that caused them to commit the crime in the first place—violence or otherwise—that they've dealt with that. So we really need a clear picture of who we're dealing with.
Information regarding risk about an offender up for conditional release can be found in any number of sources. They include Crown briefs, judges' comments, psychological assessments and police reports, and they need to be provided to the Parole Board.
Reports that can run hundreds of pages must be reviewed so that relevant information is captured for the Board in order to maintain quality decisions.
Halifax Regional Police and the Parole Board of Canada have developed a new report format that summarizes information from different sources, including officer observations, street checks, motor-vehicle stops and safety bulletins. The new model includes not only suggested content but also relevant intelligence that can be safely provided to the Board without compromising sources or jeopardizing ongoing investigations.
We were able to go in and basically cut and paste, establish a header, a template, and we would take the information that's contained for the offences that the offender is now being sentenced for.
What about all the other information that's contained on our databanks? What about a person that was arrested, say, for a homicide but not enough evidence to lay a charge, but that person was arrested and questioned for, say, a 24-hour period for a murder and may remain still a key suspect for that murder?
If we don't take that type of information, condense it, and put it forward to the Correctional Service of Canada and the (National) Parole Board, how are those individuals going to be able to make decisions on that offender if they don't have the information to work with?
We came to the realization that there was a whole lot of information that was not getting into the police report, and some of our Board members were asking the question, 'Well, why can't we have this information?'
HALIFAX POLICE CHIEF FRANK BEAZLEY
It would be impossible to send all that data into the justice system. But if we didn't use it, the courts didn't get a clear picture and neither did the prisons or parole board. We had to do something different. It just made sense to go through all these databanks and put together a proper profile of all the information that would make the whole justice process more effective.
DET. CONST. SCOTT BOWERS
We're going in, we're reading that report and we're finding the pertinent information, and we're scaling it down—from a 300-page report to a five-page report.
Some of the information that wouldn't have been included in the past would have been if the offender had been investigated for certain offences but not necessarily charged with those offences, so we're starting to include some of that information, but only at a time when the offender himself is aware of the investigation and been questioned or interrogated.
CSC DEPUTY COMMISSIONER THÉRÈSE LEBLANC
Our offenders come from across Canada, and can also get transferred across Canada. It is beneficial if we could have this pilot roll out, quite frankly, across Canada, in as many police jurisdictions as we could.
What it does is it takes all of the police information, including the security intelligence information, and concisely puts it into a police report for our staff to be able to use as they prepare the treatment plans, as they prepare the documents for the decision-makers, and ultimately to ensure that public safety is well represented.
We would end up with consistency in regards to our police reports, so that you would have the same format with the same information on an individual, whether they came from Halifax or Vancouver.
SPRINGHILL INSTITUTION PAROLE OFFICER RICK CREAMER
It's saved us a tremendous amount of time for the parole officers in the reception unit to not have to go through 100 pages for fear that you might miss something buried in the middle of it that was important. And it would just simply cut to the chase. They cover everything that we need to know from whether the offender was cooperative, whether he took off, whether he fled, who the accomplices were, the impact of the crime on the victims.
I know that all of the PO's are very happy with the new reports coming out of that municipality and certainly would not want to see us go back to any of the previous reports.
The idea of creating a scaled-down, summarized police report—rich in risk-relevant information—has been shared with several police services in Atlantic Canada.
The RCMP have a number of detachments within the Halifax municipality. They are using the template. Pretty much every time we go out and do a presentation to local police forces or the RCMP, the whole concept is embraced. A lot of them have said we should have been doing this a long time ago.
It would be hoped that we could somehow identify somebody in each jurisdiction that would maintain these reports and would be a contact person … can we compare notes.
It makes perfect sense. We're giving the information that needs to be given to the people that need to have it to make proper decisions.
Halifax Regional Police, being the largest department in the province, are putting out in approximately the last two years 400 reports on federal offenders. If we're able to keep up with that kind of number, certainly we can help with any other department that's dealing with 20 or 30 offenders per year to get the information into the hands of the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.
We've begun here, we've shared what we're doing with other jurisdictions and we're hoping they'll catch on, and we'll hope that eventually there'll be a network across the country that we'll all be able to share with each other.