New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

Stephanie Sanford

Picture1) What is your official current position and title?

I am a Senior Consultant in the Crime Prevention and Policing Standards Branch at the New Brunswick Department of Public Safety. I am also a Lecturer in the Departments of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Sociology at St. Thomas University.

2) What is your educational background?

I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree (First Class Honours in Sociology, Major in Criminology and Minor in French) from St. Thomas University and a Master’s of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of New Brunswick. Both my undergraduate and graduate theses focused on the justice system’s response to woman abuse.

3) Talk a little about your career path. Where did your passion for the research/work that you do originate and how did it develop?

I am very fortunate that I get to work in an area I feel so passionate about and went to university to study for so long. My interest in policing and all things criminal justice developed when I was a young girl in Miramichi. My father is a police officer so I grew up in and around a police station, participating in parades, washing police cars, helping to install radio equipment and the like. When it was time to attend university, I knew right away that I wanted to study Criminology, which brought me to St. Thomas University.

In the early 2000s, students could not major alone in Criminology, nor could they do an honour’s in that discipline. I chose Sociology as my other major on a whim, but grew to love it very quickly. My years at STU taught me to think critically and inspired me to challenge the status quo and work towards social justice. My interests in social policy and violence against women really came to life in a third-year Sociology of Law class, a course that I now teach. After reading about women’s access to justice, I decided to study the domestic legal aid system in New Brunswick as part of my Honour’s thesis research. I interviewed women who had sought the help of legal aid for child custody and access, separation and divorce, many of whom were subjected to violence in their intimate partner relationships. Hearing these women say they didn’t qualify for services because their experiences were “not abusive enough” made me question how social policies get developed and how they can further disempower the most vulnerable citizens.

Still keen on finding answers and wanting to make a difference, I decided to pursue graduate studies at the University of New Brunswick. My MA thesis explored the legal and extra-legal factors that influence how police respond to domestic violence, including the policies, procedures and laws governing police action. In spite of policies and procedures, I learned that officers’ training and understanding of domestic violence, as well as their individual attitudes, views on marriage and family, and perceptions of police work also factor into their response.

After completing my MA degree, I taught a full course load at STU for a year. Although I loved teaching (and still do!), I jumped all over the opportunity to work in policy a year later when a position at Public Safety came available.

4) Tell us about one or two of your current projects.

For the last few years at Public Safety, I’ve been working on the Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence (D/IPV) priority of New Brunswick’s Crime Prevention and Reduction Strategy. The Strategy was developed in partnership with the Roundtable on Crime and Public Safety, a body that brings together community agencies, the police, the private sector, academia, First Nations groups, municipal and federal governments, and several provincial departments to collaborate on improvements to crime prevention policy and practice. One of the Strategy activities was to implement a standardized risk assessment tool to be used in D/IPV cases by all police officers across the province. Our team of 32 trainers delivered training on D/IPV and the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment to more than 800 police officers (both municipal and RCMP members). Because the ODARA results are intended to be used to inform bail decisions, I also delivered information sessions to Crown prosecutors throughout NB and to the New Brunswick Association of Provincial Court Judges.

I am currently working with a multi-disciplinary team to develop a Coordinated Community Response model for high risk and high danger intimate partner violence cases. This means that, when police officers, victim services coordinators, or other service providers administer a risk or danger assessment tool and the results are high risk/extreme danger, there can be a referral to a case coordination team that will work together to keep the individuals safe. The goal of this model is to enhance community and justice responses to high risk/high danger D/IPV cases through improved information sharing, collaborative safety planning, and risk mitigation strategies.

Yet another D/IPV Strategy activity is the Love Shouldn’t Hurt campaign, which was recently launched by the Roundtable. Through social and traditional marketing, the campaign will increase public awareness and understanding of IPV with an aim to create a social environment that supports and encourages positive behavioural change. The campaign will also connect New Brunswickers with a variety of support services available to both victims and abusive partners.

5) How do you see your research/work in terms of possibly contributing to evidence-based public policy?

One of the guiding principles of the Crime Prevention Strategy is informed decision-making. Our mission is to implement a comprehensive strategy that is based on proven practices through planning, education, coordination, innovative leadership and evaluation. Especially given our fiscal realities, we know decisions on the use of resources must be guided by the effective use of data, which includes knowledge about “what works” to prevent and reduce crime and how well current approaches are working. All Strategy activities are informed by evidence. And if New Brunswick evidence is not available, we work with our partners to implement ways of getting better information. For instance, D/IPV survey codes were added to all police records management systems in the province so we know, by region, the numbers of D/IPV incidents attended by police; the proportion for whom ODARA scores were produced; and the number of ODARA scores falling in the low-, moderate- and high-risk ranges. This information will help inform the Coordinated Community Response model.

6) Discuss any past achievements that were significant to your professional path? Have any contributed to the promotion of evidence-based public policy?

I feel that completing my MA degree and continuing to teach part-time were significant to my professional path. As a graduate student, I formed a number of relationships with very dedicated, passionate and incredibly bright professors. I still call on these mentors for expert advice on both personal and professional related matters. Maintaining these relationships has helped me to better do my job as they keep me informed about current research and public policies in other jurisdictions.

7) Describe in a couple sentences your involvement with RRPS-NB and how your relationship with the Network has contributed to your research/work and/or to social/economic policy?

I’ve been a member of NB-SPRN since its early days and NB-SPRN is an important partner organization on the Roundtable on Crime and Public Safety. It has been said that the success of New Brunswick’s Crime Prevention and Reduction Strategy is a result of the collaboration of diverse sectors – academia, community and government – working together towards clearly identified and measureable goals. NBSPRN primed these sectors to work better together and for that, New Brunswick is very fortunate.

8) Any last thoughts? 

I am a very proud mom of two young children (shown in the photo above). My daughter, Jorja (6 years) wants to be a teacher when she grows up and my son, Jackson (4 years) aspires to become a police officer. I know a lot can change between now and then, but I hope one day they too find a career they can take pride in and find tremendously rewarding.

Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design