Alternative response officers making 'positive connections' in Saskatoon
SASKATOON -- One of Saskatoon’s new special constables says the team is being viewed in a good light by citizens.
“We’re making positive connections with the people that we meet so far, and the uniform hasn’t been a barrier at all so far in the work that we’ve done. It’s actually been really good because they see our uniform and thank us for our presence downtown,” Micaiah Wines told CTV News.
Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) recently swore in five Alternative Response Officers as a new tier of public safety service. The crew will be finished training later this month and will officially start their role June 21 with two teams hitting the streets.
The officers are meant to facilitate outreach and referral services and help regular patrol officers and members of the traffic division, police say.
They are unarmed and look different than regular officers, with grey shirts, special constable patches and a distinctly marked vehicle.
Insp. Darren Pringle says the program was made possible through $350,000 in funding from the Board of Police Commissioners. There are similar programs in Vancouver and Winnipeg.
The new constables are specially trained in de-escalation and are specifically trying to make connections with people in the downtown area.
Pringle says the officers can write tickets include jaywalking, carrying open liquor and cycling on the sidewalks.
“They’re not there just to serve the business interest, we’re not there just to serve the interest of people who live downtown. The alternative response officers are downtown so that everybody can have some representation and everybody can be living and working and playing in the same space,” Pringle told CTV News.
Matt Brenner, another special constable, said their goal is to be approachable.
“We just want to be a presence in the community that people can be comfortable being around.”