Q&A With Det. Chief Supt. John Carnochan
Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan will be speaking at REACH Edmonton's 2013 Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. For more information on Det. Chief Supt. John Carnochan, click here. For more information on the 2013 REACH Edmonton AGM, click here.
Q: Why did you decide to become a police officer? A: I joined the Lankshire Constabulary (later amalgamated with Strathclyde Police) in 1974. I served mostly as a detective in Glasgow. I joined the police because I had just gotten married and it was a steady job with accommodation. Q: During your years of service, what experiences caused you to put a focus on crime prevention and harm reduction? A: I didn’t really think seriously about prevention and harm reduction until about 2004. At that time I was deputy head of the criminal investigation department. I was asked to develop a homicide reduction strategy for the force. I met with Karyn McCluskey, who was the force Principal Intelligence Analyst. She had prepared a report about the levels of violence in the force area, which were very high. She and I then worked together and established the Violence Reduction Unit in 2004. We became a national unit in 2006, of which Karyn is now Director. The use of a public health model made sense to me. I had been locking people up for 30 years and yet there was no real difference in the levels of violence or in the types of violence. I realized that criminal justice was the service of last resort, but it had become the first and only response to violence. Q: Why are prevention and reduction important in terms of law enforcement? A: If communities and societies are to flourish, then their wellbeing is important. Living in fear of violence makes you ill. Detecting a murder after is has been committed is relatively straightforward. It’s a technical skill and our detection rate for murder in Scotland is about 98 per cent. But if we can prevent a murder it costs less, there are fewer victims, there is less fear and all in all communities are healthier. Criminal justice must be considered the service of last resort. We deal only with the demands of failure and we are expensive and our benefits are short-lived. The role of police is to stabilize the patient while the “cure” is administered in collaboration with health, education and community. Q: What topics will you be covering during your keynote address at the REACH Edmonton AGM? A: Violence makes you ill and it’ a problem for society. Violence is a contagious disease. When addressing it a shared agenda, effective partnership and collaboration are essential. There is no silver bullet but we can become better as a society. It’s complicated but not complex. The early years in a person’s life are crucial: the most important years of a child’s life are up to age three. Violence in the home must be tackled or we will never fix violence in society. What is required is relentless delivery, not just strategy. Those affected by violence must be involved in the process. Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing crime prevention and harm reduction today? A: Old ideas and attitudes. Leadership and a change in attitudes are crucial to bringing about a sustained reduction in violence. What we have done up until now has not really had the impact we need. We need to do things differently and focus on shared outcomes: safer and healthier communities. We need to apply the effective practice but we also need to do the big things that require social change: our attitude towards the availability of alcohol need to change, our attitudes toward punishment and rehabilitation need to be aligned. Our assumption that there is a single solution is misguided. There are many determinants that directly impact our health and wellbeing and violence is just one of them, but they are all connected.