Municipal enforcement in Yellowknife ‘lacks clear priorities and policies’, review finds

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Yellowknife, NWT – An independent review of municipal enforcement in Yellowknife says officers have been given neither clear priorities, nor clear policies to follow.

The review, by British Columbia-based consultancy Perivale and Taylor, recommends some restructuring of municipal enforcement alongside training improvements, better record-keeping and a new “community standards” bylaw.

The document – created in consultation with officers, councillors, the Mayor, RCMP and other agencies, including a study of similar forces elsewhere in Canada – adds that municipal enforcement in the city sometimes more closely resembles a police force than most municipal bylaw teams in southern provinces.

More than anything, the review portrays an environment in which guidance for Yellowknife’s bylaw officers to follow is thin on the ground.

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The latest draft of the review, published on the City of Yellowknife’s website and circulated on social media by Councillor Adrian Bell, concludes: “Overriding all other considerations is the need for overall strategic direction and accountability.

“Policies and procedures are inconsistent, fragmented, and not available to the officers.

“It is essential that all policies and procedures are reviewed and revised and combined into one centralized manual format, paper and electronic, which is immediately accessible.

“Failure to develop such a manual creates risk for officers and a commensurate risk for the City.”

Accompanying the review – which will be discussed at the city’s municipal services committee on Monday – is a suggested strategic plan for the future.

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The plan’s first recommendation is separating parking enforcement from the other duties of municipal enforcement officers.

The consultancy found that the two job descriptions substantially differed, creating a risk of placing ill-equipped parking officials – who wear the same uniform as counterparts with more law enforcement training – in dangerous situations.

On the same topic, concerns are expressed that some officials currently see municipal enforcement as a way of earning cash for the city, given the large sums brought in by parking enforcement.

“Revenue generation must not be the raison d’être of a policing or law enforcement function. The mandate of the municipal enforcement division is to provide public safety and enforcement services,” the document says.

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Other recommendations in the plan include a new manual of policies and procedures, made easily available to officers.

Additional training is called for regarding traffic stops, snowmobiles, court procedures and communication skills – including “verbal judo”, a means of verbal self-defence designed to calm people in heated situations.

In the longer term, the plan suggests the city should “develop a process for council to identify annual priorities and a periodic reporting process on the implementation of the priorities”.

The review said such measures to set municipal enforcement priorities do not currently exist, and neither do “meaningful annual goals”.

Lastly, a new bylaw is recommended to tackle “public nuisance” offences not currently covered by bylaws in Yellowknife.

“Several jurisdictions have introduced comprehensive bylaws which encompass offences related
to ‘public nuisance’ and similar occurrences,” says the review.

“Such a ‘Community Standards Bylaw’, implemented in Yellowknife, could address the types of disorder and nuisance incidents currently not addressed or enforceable under a bylaw.”

That complements the review’s suggestion that officers be made inspectors under the Liquor Act in order to better handle “intoxicated persons and unlawful possession of liquor” – areas where officers currently have little power to act.

Read the draft review in full on the City of Yellowknife’s website, alongside the strategic plan.

CJCD Moose FM News

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