When I think about sustainability, I don’t immediately think of police departments. My background is sustainability planning and I have worked for regional and municipal government as well as for the non-profit sector. Before this summer, I had never encountered or heard of sustainability initiatives in police departments. In general, my contact with the police has been minimal. The most substantial thing is that I’ve undergone background checks through the RCMP because I used to work as a lifeguard and working with children requires completing a background check (and no, I’m not ‘conveniently’ omitting any details!).
My Greenest City project is to review sustainability initiatives undertaken by police departments around the world. The Vancouver Police Department recently adopted a goal to become more environmentally sustainable as a department. While they have started several initiatives and have recorded accomplishments, they are looking to create a more comprehensive sustainability strategy and want to know what other jurisdictions were doing.
My supervisor and I didn’t expect to find a lot. What I did unearth surprised me. Below are select paragraphs from the final report that I am beginning to write. I have to say that one of the coolest things that I found is that there is an organization called the International Association for Law Enforcement Planners (IALEP). Every police department has staff working on research, policy and planning and many departments in North American are plugged into IALEP. Being an urban planner, it was delightful to not only find fellow planning folks at the VPD but a whole network of planners that I didn’t know about!
Police Sustainability Around the World
An Internet search identified eight police forces in the UK that have publicly accessible sustainability policies, plans and reports online. One police department responded to a survey circulated via the International Association for Law Enforcement Planners (IALEP) listserve. A scan of North American police department websites revealed that several Canadian agencies are working on sustainability projects. A targeted survey contacted 35 Canadian and 57 American departments and one Australian agency. Responses were received from 27 Canadian and 29 American departments for a response rate of 75% from Canadian agencies, 51% from American agencies and 60% overall. A response was also received from the single Australian department. Several of these departments were interviewed by phone in order to gain more detailed information about their sustainability efforts. This survey excluded the Vancouver Police Department.
The leading police agency in the world with respect to environmental initiatives is the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). The Service established its environmental program in 1991 and has won numerous awards for their work. In addition to expanding the scope of their work to include social, economic and environmental impacts in their 2010-2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy, the MPS is also taking national leadership in policing sustainability. Most if not all forces in the UK have created or are in the process of creating sustainability policies and plans, as national legislation requires public sector organizations to assess, measure and minimize their environmental impacts.
Police environmental initiatives are less uniform in North America than in the United Kingdom because of the lack of national legislative requirements. Instead, the responses from survey participants suggest that departments often adopt sustainability goals and actions as partners and contributors to their municipality’s city-wide sustainability commitments and plans.
21 of the 27 departments (71%) surveyed in Canada are working on environmental projects or initiatives. Among the respondents, the Calgary and Ontario Provincial Police Departments have the most comprehensive sustainability initiatives in Canada. The Calgary Police created an Environmental Management Program this year and is in the process of becoming ISO 140001 certified. To support the Ontario Government’s Green Strategy, the Ontario Provincial Police recently developed a departmental Green Strategy.
18 of the 29 agencies (62%) that responded from the United States are undertaking sustainability projects or initiatives. Among those surveyed, the Dallas Police has the most comprehensive environmental initiative of those surveyed. In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Dallas entered into an agreed upon consent decree to enhance the City’s environmental stewardship. The Dallas Police was one of the first departments that began implementing the City of Dallas’ Environmental Management System by becoming ISO 140001 certified.
The Victoria Police is the single Australian department that was contacted through the targeted survey. The Victoria Police initially began working on energy reduction initiatives in 2005 to comply with state requirements. In 2008, it voluntarily broadened its work to other sustainability areas and created an Environmental Sustainability Branch. The agency is taking state-wide leadership in sustainability. It has been working with the Department of Sustainability & Environment over the last several years to develop a state-wide environmental data management system that will allow comparison of environmental performance across the State Government.
Environmental work within the Victoria Police started in response to the State Government establishing mandated energy reduction targets for all departments. It is likely that other Australian departments are undertaking environmental work under similar circumstances. However, the lack of publicly accessible online information, lack of contact information for these departments and short time frame for conducting this survey prevented further study. This is an area for future work.