2020 was not easy for many and that includes the Regina Police Service.
While the world did shut down for a time, it didn’t for members of RPS as they continued doing what they do on a daily basis with added stress because of the pandemic.
In a year-end interview with 620 CKRM, Chief Evan Bray says it was challenging for those on the street and those at headquarters.
“We are expected to offer that same service and that same level of community safety, but it had to be done in a different manner. That meant keeping our officers safe with PPE, but it meant asking people to use the phone or go online if they could to report crime to free up officers to not have as much contact if we didn’t need to and focus our efforts on the more serious crimes that happen. ” Bray said. ” Within the office, when you think of the potential of an outbreak in our detention area, it would not only be a problem for us, but the community so the need to keep our entire staff was something we really focused on.”
While COVID-19 did take up a lot of attention and time, Bray says the real story was the amount of overdoses we saw in Regina. Bray says it is an ongoing problem and is something they need to reduce as 2021 begins.
“We definitely are dealing with a dire straits situation.” Bray said. “We have had more than 1050 overdoses reported and we know there were many that weren’t reported for one reason or another whether it was someone being revived by a family member or something else. Sadly, we have had over 100 deaths as well, so this is a big problem in our community and is something our members see every day. Our Regina Police Service continues to work to try and suppress the amount of drugs coming into the community that are then sold to people with addictions. We have had a lot of drug busts in 2020 in an attempt to limit the drugs coming in. That is only the small part of the picture though. The big part is trying to help people suffering from addictions. That health issue breaks into two streams. We have to work on some long-term strategies, but we must also recognize there is an immediate need for help, so we have to look at harm reduction to try and prevent deaths from happening.
Bray was also involved in an event this summer at the Saskatchewan Legislature as a series of anti-racism rallies happened across the country.
Bray was asked by organizers to speak at the rally and during that rally, he and others took a knee.
“The message that day was loud and clear. Everyone who was there loves our community and believes in it and wants to do what is necessary to end racism.” Bray said. “It was about a commitment I was making on behalf of the RPS to continue to work with the community to show that black lives do matter.
As the police chief, Bray recognizes law enforcement took a direct hit because of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer in that city which sparked the rallies nationwide.
As he watched the video of that act, he like many others were outraged.
“It was tragic and sad and angering and frustrating. I went through the emotions that the rest of the community went through. It tarnished a career and a profession that I value and love. I watched the entire video with my wife. It was uncomfortable to do so.” Bray said. “It did give myself and others a strong resolve to ensure we would continue to do the positive work we are doing in our community and assure our community that we don’t operate that way and that we respect the citizens that we work for and work with. We have been able to take some positive steps forward though and it is because of the positive dialogue we have had with the community since that event happened.”
As he looks to 2021, Bray says he has a tremendous amount of pride for his front-line officers and the entire department for the work they do, work that they do at a time that is very uncomfortable for those needing help because they have been a victim of crime or something else. He says being Regina’s police chief is a challenging job, but the job is made easier because of the people he represents.
“Both on the street and in the office, the 600 plus people we have make it easier to do my job because everyone of them cares about the community and diligently works to the best of their ability everyday. I could not be prouder of our police service and the way we held our heads high in what was maybe the most challenging year in our 127 year history. We have come out of the year stronger and better and as a result I think our community is stronger and better.”
The complete interview with Bray can be heard New Year’s afternoon on 620 CKRM.