Weaving a web of safety in Metro Vancouver
“I’m going to grab you by the scruff of the neck and take you up to the Transit Authority, when we get to Lougheed,” I heard the man behind me threaten. It was early evening on January 5, 2016 and I was heading home to Vancouver from Port Moody. Lougheed Skytrain station was the end of the line for the bus I was on and where I needed to make my next connection. I knew he meant me because a few minutes before, he’d accosted me, demanding I sit down.
The driver confirmed I was allowed to stand. The man who was white, older and quite stocky went back to his seat but got the last word warning loudly, “She’s a danger to herself and everyone else.”
I had been ready to drop the whole thing until the threat to grab me. As we arrived at Lougheed, I asked for help and a young man kindly offered to walk with me as we hadn’t seen where the older man had gone. Up on the platform, we found a Transit worker and in the same moment the young man spotted my would be assailant 5 meters away, staring at me. The worker took my story and phoned the Transit Police. Meanwhile the young man and another Transit worker tailed the man who, with all the attention, gave up on me and boarded a train going away from Vancouver.
Constable Chuck Glover, (@chuckglover1), arrived to take my story, but he did a lot more than that. He helped me to feel safe by affirming how I’d followed my instincts in handling the situation. A few days went by and he phoned me to tell me they had positively identified the man and to see how I was doing. That was when I asked him if I could interview him for Spark.
“We both do the same thing — caring for people is caring for community,” Constable Glover said to me as we sat down to chat a few days ago, at a coffee shop on Main St., in Vancouver. Up on the Skytrain platform, where we had first met, he learned that I am a psychological counsellor and used that information to put me at ease and to learn more.
“I’m doing you to you. I’m using statement analysis, interview interrogation techniques and face mapping,” he recalled saying to me then. “When I said that, your face changed and you took a relaxed breath.” I remembered he quickly helped me to relax so that I could focus on telling him what happened and my thoughts about it.
I thought about the odd coincidence of events. The last time I remember being followed was well over 30 years ago when I was a student living in Manhattan. After that I studied Aikido and learned how to keep safe space around me. I’m able to help others in part because I help myself first. I’ve had my share of difficulties — enough to know what it’s like to recover from PTSD and to know our profound resilience and our unlimited capacity for healing. That evening I was returning from a healing session for myself and the theme turned out to be personal safety.
We continued to review what had happened and I asked him why he had phoned me a few days later. Glover replied, “If you walk away and you’re still looking over your shoulder, the dark side wins. I don’t want the dark side to win. I want the people to win and that’s community policing.”
Constable Glover’s definition of community policing is getting to know who is in the community, their habits, their comings and goings. That way he and his colleagues can track people and care for them as well as picking out criminals. “It’s like on your street, you know certain cars and where they park. If something is different, you notice. It’s called geographic profiling.”
I asked the Constable to tell me more about geographic profiling and he said, “Patterns, call them habits, are something we all do. We usually go to the same coffee shop, we have our coffee the same way, we go at the same time and sit in the same place.” Not only do they watch for patterns of individuals, but that they also pay attention to location and relationships across Metro Vancouver. Glover emphasized, “It isn’t profiling the people, but the patterns that people display. Once you know the patterns then you can make certain predictions.”
The Constable told me he and his partners watched and saw the pattern of a particular drug dealer in the Surrey Central area — along with those who dealt with him. “Then we heated him up,” he said.
“Heated him up?” I asked.
“We watched him, and we made a point of him knowing we were watching him. We spoke to him on the street. He didn’t like it, but when the police play by the rules, and those types of people know the rules, not much they can do.”
Glover stated, “By finding out everyone who is connected to that individual, the organization members in turn realize the police are watching. Plus, we find out who is watching us.”
They heated him up to the point where his organization noticed and moved him from Surrey Central to Metrotown and after that to Commercial Drive in Vancouver. They continued to apply the heat and the organization moved him to Richmond, which showed Glover and his team their reach. Glover explained, “If he can be dropped into a spot without major disturbance to other drug dealers, that tells us a lot.”
“What matters to you, matters to us,” he says and goes on to describe with warmth how the community members stop seeing the police as uniforms. “We get to know citizen’s habits. We engage. They see us as people.”
It takes years of experience to get to the maturity and skill level of a constable like Glover. He described a survey the RCMP did some years ago where they observed the behaviors of officers they put into simulated domestic disturbance scenarios. They looked at new recruits and those with, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of experience. The differences were stunning, with new recruits entering the scene, their hands on their guns, while seasoned officers used simple conversational techniques to diffuse the tension before beginning their interrogation. Glover happily described a 25-year veteran who upon arriving at a real domestic disturbance call, truthfully started out by saying, “I’ve been on my feet all day and they are killing me. Is there a place for me to sit down?” In this way the officer established a human connection with the disputants and paved the way to a solution.
As we wrapped up, Constable Glover shared a last example of what community policing means to him. One time he and his partner were at a Skytrain platform and noticed a woman who they recognized. It was late at night, there were some suspicious characters hanging about and she was alone. They simply continued to do their paperwork, quietly keeping an eye on her, until she safely boarded her train.
I will never again assume when I see officers at a coffee shop enjoying themselves, that that is all there is to it!
Translink Transit Police information: http://www.translink.ca/en/Rider-Guide/Safety-and-Security.aspx