Embracing the Future

Re-imagining the Future

Looking into the future forces you to come to terms with the present.

That’s precisely what happened recently at a workshop with senior police executives and leaders from a variety of services from across Canada. The session, led by futurist and political scientist Sohail Inayatullah, was held at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.

The workshop focused on the future of policing in light of the global financial crisis (GFC). What emerged was a confirmation that it cannot be “business as usual” for law enforcement agencies.

Certainly the GFC is a powerful driver of the changes ahead but so are the demographic shifts occuring internationally and in major centres in Canada.

For example, Statistics Canada projections for 2031 — about 20 short years from now — include:

  • Within the population having a non-Christian religion, approximately one person in two would be a Muslim.
  • Approximately three Canadians in ten (between 29% and 32%) could be a member of a visible minority.
  • The percentage of visible minorities who were foreign-born would reach 71%, the percentage of allophones more than 77%.

These projections, and other factors, will have a profound effect on how police services and other law enforcement agencies keep communities and people safe.

Besides thinking differently about how to pay for “effective, efficient and adequate” policing, a paradigm shift in thinking about how to police must also occur. The outdated and antiquated command and control model must give way to a new collaborative way of policing an increasingly urbanized environment.

Communities and citizens and other stakeholders — mental health professionals, youth workers, faith workers, community-based agencies — must all play a role.

Policing agencies, like all organizations, are creatures of their corporate narratives (which is a collective narrative of the individuals within those agencies). For real change to occur the narrative must change.

After two days of enlightening, thought-provoking and challenging discussions and looking boldly into the near future, a collective narrative of the workshop participants emerged:

“I am strong and calm. No one but me can write my future. I am confident others will follow me because they have faith, not because they have been convinced to act. I perceive no evil in the hearts of men. It is a future that is welcoming and friendly where I can go with respect, taking full advantage of each day with the realization that it was a worthwhile journey.”

It is a narrative that all leaders may want to embrace.

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