With renovations to the soft interview room at the Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment ongoing, Andria Cowan Molyneaux of ACM Designs shared a ‘storyboard’, showcasing some of the furniture and styles that will be included in the space.

Haliburton business pays for upgrades to OPP ‘soft interview room’

By Mike Baker

Haliburton business ACM Designs has pledged more than $15,000 to renovate an “important space” at the Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment.

As a former police officer Andria Cowan Molyneaux knows all too well the difficulties and struggles that come hand-in-hand with a career in law enforcement. When she transitioned to a new career, opening ACM Designs in 2015, she made a promise to herself that she would always support a sector she dedicated a considerable amount of her life to.

Rather than wait for an opportunity to fall into her lap, Cowan Molyneaux chased one down. Earlier this year she reached out to senior administration from the Haliburton Highlands OPP with an idea to renovate the soft interview room at the detachment building. The space is primarily designated for victims of violence, to provide a safe area for them to share their stories with police officers.

“We feel a lot better when we’re safe, and we feel more open when we feel safe,” Cowan Molyneaux told the Echo. “It’s a great honour for me to be a part of the team on this project. This is something that, I feel, is going to have a great impact. If you go somewhere, as a victim or a witness and you feel like you’re being taken more seriously, if you think this looks like a serious operation, then you feel more confidence in what’s happening and it impacts the overall credibility of the experience.”

In developing their vision for the room, Cowan Molyneaux and another member of staff from ACM Designs met with investigators to determine where cameras and microphones had to be placed, and essentially built around that. The room will boast a faux leather loveseat, armchairs and coffee table, and will be decorated with “calming colours” designed to make the space feel comfortable and inviting.

All of the furniture is custom-made and awaiting delivery. Cowan Molyneaux expects the new and improved room will be ready for use by June.

Liane Spong, Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment commander, noted the importance of the renovation and the positive impact it will have in recent comments to media.

“The OPP promotes the use of a soft interview room as a means to make the sharing of difficult, often embarrassing or traumatic stories less challenging, as one of the steps we take in ensuring trauma-informed care and a victim-centred approach to investigations,” Spong said. “Simply put, it has a more comfortable environment to help make the process easier.”

While the updated space will provide a better environment for victims and witnesses to share their stories, it will also be helpful for police professionals, Cowan Molyneaux believes.

“I think we have to think about the other user here – the detectives. If you go to work every day and feel that your surroundings are unattended to, or made up of afterthoughts, then that impacts how you feel about your job,” Cowan Molyneaux said. “These rooms are emotional spaces, not just for the people telling the story, but for the people listening to it, deciphering it and figuring out a plan for what to do next. That’s an emotional experience for them too, so they also deserve to feel safe in that room.

“It’s great to do this for the victims, and it’s natural for us to focus on the victims, but also it’s really important to remember what police officers do. There’s an impact to what they do. That’s where things like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops. They have this burden of hearing truly terrible things, and then they’re tasked with doing something about it,” Cowan Molyneaux added. “It’s not an easy job, not at all. But I think our officers are fantastic, and any little thing I can do to make their jobs a little easier, I’m more than happy to do it.”