Health, emergency communications and diversity among list of topics as Canadian police chiefs gather in Calgary

Former Prince Albert police chiefs Troy Cooper (left) and Dale McFee (right) pose for a photo with Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen (centre-left) and Deputy Chief Jason Stonechild (centre-right) during the annual Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Calgary. -- Prince Albert Police Service/Facebook

Mental and physical health, 9-1-1 services and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls were just a few of the topics up for discussion at the 2019 Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) conference in Calgary this week.

The annual event drew more than 200 people from police leadership positions across Canada, including Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen and Deputy Chief Jason Stonechild.

“The opportunity to communicate with chiefs across the country, it’s invaluable,” Bergen said during an interview on Thursday. “I really (appreciate) the opportunity to be able to speak with a great number of chiefs about all kinds of different topics.”

Bergen said it’s difficult to say which topic was the most important, but discussions around 9-1-1 services were definitely near the top. The CRTC governs the telecommunications service providers who supply the networks needed for 9-1-1 services. On June 1, 2017 they directed all telephone companies to update those networks to the next-generation 9-1-1 network (NG9-1-1). These new services will allow callers to send pictures, texts and video through 9-1-1.

The current system will be shut off by 2023, but police departments from across the country are already preparing for it.

“NG9-1-1 is going to change the way we use 9-1-1,” Bergen said. “We’re already planning to make sure that we’re well within the timeline. We’re working towards a transition from our dispatch services into more of a provincial model and we’re moving ahead with that.”

Prince Albert’s police department will likely make the switch within the six months. Bergen said Canadian police chiefs know telephone conversations are becoming less and less frequent as texting becomes the preferred means of communication. Embracing the NG9-1-1 system will help police departments keep up with that trend.

“Telephone conversations are less common than they’ve ever been and near obsolete, I would have to say,” Bergen explained. “With messaging through the Internet, if that’s our way of communicating we have to make that available to the community.”

Physical and mental health of police service members was also a major topic. Bergen said departments can’t function properly if their members aren’t healthy, so discussions about common challenges and best practices are vital.

Another major topic was Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a conversation that will have a strong Prince Albert presence going forward. At the convention, Prince Albert Deputy Chief Jason Stonechild was named to the Policing with Indigenous People national committee. Bergen said that’s something the whole Prince Albert Police Service is excited about.

“Absolutely what’s important to us is we’re going to work together on a national level to make sure that we’re doing all we can to enhance and build those relationships and respond to those calls for justice that we’ve recently seen,” Bergen said.

The annual CACP conference was held from Saturday, Aug. 10 to Wednesday, Aug. 14.