While there was an overall decrease in residents’ perceptions of the Moose Jaw Police Service in the 2023 Community Perceptions Report, the third party that prepared it says there is important context to consider.  

The survey was conducted via phone by a third party, with 326 Moose Jaw residents asked to answer questions on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Survey results were compared to those from 2019’s Community Perceptions Report. 

Dr. Nicholas A. Jones, PhD, is a professor of Justice Studies with the University of Regina, and prepared the report along with Adam D. Vaughan, PhD, and Alyssa Clairmont, B.Sc. Jones delivered a summary of the report with added context during July’s Board of Police Commissioners Meeting.  

While it is generally recommended to complete the survey every two years to track changes over time, Moose Jaw did not have a survey conducted in 2021. Police Chief Rick Bourassa said that he was advised by the researchers not to complete it during that time. 

Jones said that a perception survey was conducted in Regina in 2021. “What we found in Regina, as well as all police services across the country, was that in 2021, every major public institution took a real hit.” 

Jones pointed to the pandemic and civil unrest as factors impacting the perception of institutions including police services. He noted that the death of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020 affected how police were viewed by the public. 

“I’m not sure that 25 years ago, George Floyd would have had an effect in Canada, let alone in Moose Jaw. But certainly, now we’re seeing things from Europe, from Eastern Europe, from all around the globe, when there are incidents involving police and police misconduct, it is painting a broad stroke brush negative picture across the board." 

Jones said if the survey had been conducted in 2021, he thinks it would have shown the same downward trend in perceptions and subsequent rebound that other police services have seen. “I wanted to provide that context, because what we’ve seen since 2021 is a slight return to the pre-pandemic numbers, but not a full return.” 

As in 2019, the 2023 survey looked at perceptions including police visibility and presence, trust and confidence in the police, contact and responsiveness, crime and fear of crime, and quality of service. 

Jones explained what to keep in mind when considering the numbers. “When you’re looking at a 5-point scale, any time you get close to or above 4 – you can’t say it’s 100 per cent conclusive, but you can certainly say it is suggestive of a very strong positive result.” 

MJPS were perceived as having the same degree of visible presence in 2023 as compared to 2019, with an average score of 3.97/5 for both years. In 2023, 72.4 per cent who responded said they either “somewhat agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the phrase “MJPS personnel are a visible presence in my community.” 

Perceptions of demonstrated professionalism went down slightly, with an average of 4.14/5 in 2023 compared to 4.26 in 2019. The perception of the organization’s honesty and integrity also decreased from 4.08/5 in 2023 versus 4.34/5 in 2019.  

Of the 38.9 per cent of respondents who said that they had contact with the MJPS in the last year, most contacts were for criminal matters (19.0 per cent), with the next highest category being traffic offences or accidents (18.3 per cent).  

When it came to reporting crimes, 73.7 per cent said they were not victims of crime during the last two years. “30 per cent reported that they’d been a victim of crime. That’s above Estevan, but below Regina in terms of who participated in the study,” explained Jones. 

The most common reasons given by those who did not report crimes included “I did not consider it important” (34.3 per cent) and “lack of confidence in the police” (28.6 per cent). 

“Confidence in the police is a bit broader than that,” explained Jones. “It’s also confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole, because it’s one thing to say ‘well, I don’t know, the police didn’t do anything,’ and it’s another thing to say ‘yeah, well you know, they did an investigation, but then the prosecutor didn’t follow up’.” 

32.8 per cent of respondents reported having called the MJPS or 911 during the last two years, compared to 35.4 per cent in 2019. Jones said those aged 55+ were more likely to have called.  

Of those who called, 74.1 per cent in 2023 reported that they “somewhat agreed” or “strongly agreed” that “I was given sufficient information to effectively deal with my situation.” The average score was 4.00/5, compared to 4.21 in 2019.  

Perceptions of safety have declined, said Jones, despite Statistics Canada showing a 9.5 per cent reduction in crime in Moose Jaw between 2016 and 2022.  

When asked about the level of crime in their neighbourhoods in the last two years, 46.3 per cent of respondents said that it had increased, 52.1 per cent said that it stayed the same, and 1.6 per cent said that it had decreased.  

Respondents’ priorities for what the MJPS should focus on were similar to the 2019 survey. In 2023, the greatest priority was placed on organized crime, drug trafficking, and gangs (4.62/5), with property crime and car theft ranking second (4.44/5) and drinking and driving ranking third (4.22/5).  

When asked questions on the quality of service, the lowest percentage of agreement was found when it came to MJPS “supplying information to the public on ways to reduce crime”, with only 37.7 percent saying they agreed, compared to the 45.5 per cent who agreed in 2019.  

Jones spoke about the importance of police being active online. “For a police service to provide that open, transparent, and accessible information at the click of a button, sitting on a cell phone, or sitting at home on a computer, is becoming more and more important in terms of certainly providing a balanced perspective.” 

With the implementation of a public information and strategic communication manager after the survey was completed in 2023, Bourassa said he would be interested to see how the perception of supplying information to the public on ways to reduce crime changes with the next survey.  

Overall quality of service was rated 3.91/5 by survey respondents, down from 4.08/5 in 2019. “It’s getting very close to that score of 4, which suggests, again, a strongly positive perception of the quality of service, with only 3.7 per cent of the entire group responding that the quality of service was poor,” said Jones.  

In terms of overall satisfaction provided, the average score was 3.93/5. This was a new question for 2023’s survey.  

Bourassa said information gleaned from the survey is used to inform their strategic plan. 

You can find the full, detailed report on the Moose Jaw Police Service’s website here.