Calls for service are up 19.7% this year compared to the same period last year, meaning more residents in the city require police assistance, adding to the workload for officers.
Police Chief Rick Bourassa says the police service will not be fully staffed until December of 2023, so the current officers are picking up slack.
I had the opportunity to do a ride-along with the police and learn what a typical evening shift looks like as an officer.
The shift change starts at 7:00 pm, and I arrived around 7:30 pm. The first order of business was setting me up with a bulletproof vest, a mandatory step for anyone accompanying an officer on a ride-along.
After being suited up, I set off on the first call of the night with Constable Payton Denet, the officer I was paired up with for the evening.
An elderly person was found deceased in their home, and police were the first to arrive on the scene. When someone dies outside of the hospital, the police and coroner investigate. If it is determined not to be suspicious, the investigation is deemed to be a coroner's case. The police assist the coroner in these cases, however, it is ultimately their investigation.
Once the police were no longer needed on the scene, we hopped back in the cruiser to head back to the station. On our way there, we stopped and assisted other officers in the arrest of a man wanted on several warrants. After the arrest, we transported the man back to the station and the police searched him for weapons and drug paraphernalia. He was put in a cell while the officers searched his backpack and we headed out on the road again.
We conducted several curfew checks on people who are court-ordered to be home between certain hours of the night. We stopped by one house several times for a curfew check and the person was not home. If the police arrive at the approved residence and the person who is supposed to be home is not, the police can then issue a warrant for their arrest as it is a breach of a court order.
We were called to different residences for a variety of different reasons, including noise complaints and people having bonfires after midnight, which is not allowed within city limits. These were all minor calls that took a short amount of time to clear up, with no criminal charges laid.
One incident we attended was a fight at a business establishment in the early hours of the morning. Once we arrived, it was decided that one of the individuals would need medical attention. We transported the man to the hospital and an officer helped him check in to the emergency room. This was a good example of police de-escalating a situation to help members of the public.
My ride-along finished around 5:00 am, but Constable Denet would continue his shift until 7:00 am.
Denet says it is important that residents in the city see officers out and about.
“Knowing that we are actively patrolling and trying to be proactive instead of reactive and that we are ready for anything is crucial,” says Denet.
He also says the job is different every day, and you can't always be sure what to expect.
“We never deal with the same call daily,” says Denet. “Once you sign in, you don’t know what you are dealing with, it’s a various number of different calls that come in at random times that you have to deal with.”
A 12-hour shift can seem daunting to someone who works a normal 9-5, but my experience went by very quickly due to the number of calls we covered.
Staff Seargent Taylor Elder says that call volume this year is higher than in the last few years.
“Since kids are back in school, we have received a lot more disclosures from teachers and school staff about children disclosing abuse at home, so those calls have gone up," says Elder. "The usual nighttime calls have not gone up. Recently, our day shifts are far busier than our nights, which is a change from past years."
The 2022 Moose Jaw Police Service budget was approved to add three new officer positions. Unfortunately, these positions will take some time to fill, as it takes about two years from the time the recruiting process starts until the time the officer is ready for patrol.