Chief says police stand behind offer to fund crisis response services, despite city budget switch

·3 min read

The Calgary Police Service is still committed to reallocate money to support other crisis response services despite city council's decision to pull from its rainy-day funds instead of the police budget.

Police Chief Mark Neufeld had supported giving up $8 million from the 2021 police budget, as long as the funds reallocated lead directly to a drop in call volumes for police officers.

Instead, on Thursday council pulled that money from its fiscal stability fund to go toward the community safety framework, which is intended to address gaps in crisis services, outreach services and emergency response, as well as gaps in racially and culturally appropriate services.

"Regardless of the source of the funding, the approval of the framework and the commitment of dollars to do that important work is a real win," Neufeld told the Calgary Police Commission during its Tuesday meeting.

"But let me be equally clear — CPS proposed initially to reallocate funds to do this work, and we remain completely committed to doing the work."

Neufeld didn't specifically say how much money would be committed to the framework, but said more details would be available at the January 2021 police commission meeting.

Anti-racism work underway

Deputy chief Katie McLellan also gave an update on CPS' anti-racism work, which is being built out of the city's public hearings on the topic earlier this year.

Police had identified six priorities the service is focusing on:

  • Building a framework with dedicated internal resources to create an anti-racism strategy. CPS dedicated two staff to full-time work leading its anti-racism action committee.

  • Allocating money to a new call response delivery model, with short term actions including increase support networks, court diversion options and improving crisis triage and working with other agencies.

  • Conducting an independent review of its school resource officer program, with the report expected by the third quarter of next year.

  • Evaluating the body-worn camera program, including a look at complaints and use of force incidents.

  • Developing practices to collect, categorize and report disaggregated race-based data — both relating to citizens and CPS employees.

  • Researching and implementing an equity, inclusion and diversity tool for CPS policies, practices and reporting — training on that tool is expected to start early next year.

"We have lots of things going on … I am optimistic but recognize there's many balls in the air and we need to have that balance, and take time to be thorough and engage and listen to lessons learned," McLellan said.

McLellan also presented an update on the service's Indigenous road map, which is focused on addressing calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls for justice.

Some of the work that's been completed since last year includes the hiring of an Indigenous strategic engagement coordinator, developing and delivering training to create awareness of different ways to respond to administration of justice offences that see Indigenous people over-represented in the carceral system, and participation in the development of the Calgary Indigenous Court.

Commissioner Heather Campbell said police have been able to put together a bit of a "dream team" for their anti-racism work, from Indigenous liaison experts to the committee's two leads, and asked what work still needs to be done.

"We recognize the need to include members from the community so they bring that objective, different lens to us. In the interim, we really haven't built what we're looking for," McLellan said, adding that they'll be seeking additional subject matter experts and community engagement in the long-term.

"We're building the bones and the framework of the plan but the strategy will be longer term."

Commissioner Marilyn North Peigan pointed out that the Indigenous court is a "guilty" court, meaning that someone has to plead guilty to enter the system. She said she'd like to see more work happening with diversion and education — something McLellan said is one of the main goals the team is striving toward.