‘Addictions still drive many issues’: Regina police chief reflects on past decade

Regina police chief Evan Bray reflects back on the past 10 years and what he expects to see over the next decade.
Regina police chief Evan Bray reflects back on the past 10 years and what he expects to see over the next decade. Derek Putz / Global News

With the arrival of 2020, Global News sat down with Regina’s Chief of Police to take a look in the rear-view mirror.

Following 21 years as a constable with the Regina Police Service, Evan Bray was named chief in 2016.

Bray became the city’s fourteenth chief after replacing Troy Hagen who retired after 38 years of service.

He joined the RPS in 1995 following a six-year stint in the media, where he spent time as a radio announcer and a weatherman at Global News.

READ MORE: Evan Bray named new Regina police chief

We posed 10 questions to Bray, reflecting on the past decade and looking ahead to the next 10 years.

The following are his answers in a Q&A format.

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What were you doing in 2010?

In 2010, I was a Patrol Sergeant working in the North Central District in Regina.  I was also president of our police association and the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers.  On a side note, I was still doing the Public Address announcing for the Saskatchewan Roughrider games at Taylor Field.

READ MORE: Regina city council passes $96M policing budget for 2020

How were you hoping things might shape up in Regina over the decade?

I would say the “2010 version of Evan Bray” was hoping for a couple things.  First, a solution to our police pension plan challenges.  We had a serious unfunded liability and it was definitely causing pressure to our plan.  As president of the association, we were focused on finding a sustainable solution.  As an operational police officer, the number of domestic disputes we were attending daily was a challenge.  As officers, we would respond but be left with very few options as far as providing meaningful, long term change.

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Were you right, or wrong? If you were wrong, how so?

On the first topic, we were successful in working collaboratively with our Board of Police Commissioners to come up with a new plan.  The new plan provides a solid sustainable pension for our members and reduced the financial burden on the city and taxpayers.  It was a positive outcome.

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On the topic of domestic disputes, there have been some solid gains. However, this is sadly still a major issue in our city.  We have strong partnerships and enhanced service delivery to better respond to a family in domestic crisis.  Having said that, our officers still respond to roughly 17 domestic conflict calls per day.

Why a domestic abuse survivor says issue should be discussed in classrooms
Why a domestic abuse survivor says issue should be discussed in classrooms

What is the single biggest change that has happened in Regina over the past 10 years that has been a game-changer?

It’s tough for me to answer this question and not refer to the prevalence of drugs in our community, particularly methamphetamine.  Addictions, inclusive of alcohol, still drive many issues that our front-line officers deal with on a daily basis.

READ MORE: Rise of crystal meth use in Saskatchewan a crisis: conference

What has been your biggest win?

Our police service enjoys a very positive relationship with our community.  Ultimately, a police service is validated by the trust the community places in them to do their job.  We have a very positive relationship with our community and spend focused attention to further build those positive relationships with all citizens.  The diversity in Regina adds to the community strength and as a police service, we are always looking for opportunities to open the door to new friendships while strengthening existing ones.

What has been your biggest disappointment or miss? What did you learn from it?

This is a tough one for me to answer.  I think social media has a lot of positive opportunities for our service but also provides challenges. I do feel that social media, in general terms, has opened the door for us to make quick judgements on situations without knowing the full story or context.  In a policing world, knowing the complete context under which something occurs is fundamental in giving true meaning to each situation.   What this has taught me is the absolute need to fill in the gaps of missing information to help paint the entire picture.  If someone is fully informed and still has an issue, fair enough.  I do take issue with those who make judgements based on incomplete facts.  As police officers, we can never do that during our investigations, I expect the same from our community.

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What was the biggest story of the last decade in Regina?

I think I have to give two answers to this question.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work has forever changed the direction of relationships in our community in a positive way.  The TRC work along with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry, has given us a foundation upon which solid, meaningful steps forward will be made based in truth and honesty with a forward focus on harmonious community building with our Indigenous neighbors.

READ MORE: Inside and Out: Regina’s changing gang landscape

It would be tough not to say the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Grey Cup victory at home in 2013! I do think that pulled our community and entire province together in a way that was so positive.  Our police service was proud to play the role we did to ensure safety during Grey Cup Week celebrations. Grey Cup 2020 is on the horizon, let’s do it again!!

Regina hopes to see $95 million in economic activity come with 2020 Grey Cup
Regina hopes to see $95 million in economic activity come with 2020 Grey Cup

How has the make-up of Regina changed over the last decade? How does this drive your decisions?

Regina has grown in population, geographic size and cultural diversity.  Each of these areas of growth is positive and absolutely strengthens our community.  As a police service, we need to be able to grow proportionately.  Ensuring we can meet the needs of a growing community and handle the service demands expected of us.  Further, we must continue to build meaningful relationships with our Indigenous and diverse communities. This includes internal recruiting and retention strategies that allow us to reflect the community we serve.

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What’s your biggest hope for Regina for 2020-2030?

In a nutshell, I hope we, as a community, are able to make some meaningful steps forward on social issues that drive many of our challenges.  Education, employment, addictions and mental health are important areas where opportunity can yield healthy results in terms of community wellness.

READ MORE: Regina employment up, construction down in latest economic report card

What is the biggest challenge facing Regina over the next decade?

Sustaining continued growth, maintaining infrastructure and building a healthy community.