The Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) Community Safety and Well-being Bureau (CSWB) houses the specialized units who focus on the wellness of our city’s youth, vulnerable populations, and high-risk offenders. These resources address areas where we can make the most positive impact and truly be the voice of influence.
The Diversion and Desistance (D&D) Branch focuses on Edmonton’s top 200 most prolific and persistent offenders, utilizing a consistent, evidence-based and rehabilitative approach towards offender management. The 2021 offender pool is responsible for 4,418 occurrences between January 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2020. 30% of these occurrences happened in 2020, and 25% in the last nine months.
By centralizing all offender management functions, we can prioritize, identify, and align functions with diversion and demand reduction strategies, initiatives, and programs within CSWB to divert these offenders better than before. Offender management strategies have been active within EPS for six years, D&D is simply improving upon what was originally developed.
Like the other areas under CSWB, D&D is a proactive approach to policing that is continually evolving. Officers within D&D encourage and promote the desistance (abandoning) of criminal lifestyles of prolific offenders by targeting the underlying motivation behind the criminal activity, be it behavioural, substance (drugs), mental health, housing, employment, social acceptance, etc. They break barriers by getting to the root of our offenders’ circumstances by asking, “What has led this person to this situation?”, “Why have they been unsuccessful in leaving this lifestyle?”, and ultimately, “How can we ensure their success?”. It all starts with a conversation.
“The overall goal is to get offenders to stop their criminal behaviour and keep them out of the criminal justice system. To do this, we use different teams of employees and various techniques to assist offenders,” Diversion and Desistance Branch’s Inspector Duane Hunter explains. For those who want to stop offending, case plans are put in place, social workers and other supports are engaged, and an enormous team effort is put in place to keep them on the path of crime-free living. For those who continue to offend, a different team watches the offenders closely, and if the risk of an offender outweighs their needs, this team will look to suppression tactics, which may include an arrest. “Ultimately, it is up to the offender to decide the direction he or she wants to go; regardless of what the offender has chosen to do, EPS officers talk and build a relationship with them,” Insp. Hunter adds.
Offender Management strategies don’t just start and end with this Branch. Officers will be working with D&D members to determine what offender management and engagement looks like for each unit so frontline members can provide a collaborative, person-centred approach toward change.