Miscommunication causing rift between Edmonton council, police commission

Click to play video: 'Rift between Edmonton council, police commission caused by miscommunication'
Rift between Edmonton council, police commission caused by miscommunication
Miscommunication is how a rift between the Edmonton Police Commission and city council is being described. Both sides have agreed to sit down with a third party to get their relationship back on track. Breanna Karstens-Smith explains how we got here – Jun 14, 2024

The head of the Edmonton Police Commission doesn’t know exactly how or when the governing body’s relationship with city council began to erode, but believes it’s time to get back on track.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s a bit of a strained relationship right now and that’s not helpful in getting business done,” said commission chair John McDougall in an interview with Global News.

“It’s certainly not helpful for the citizens of Edmonton. I think they need to see that we’re able to have difficult conversations and give city council the information they need to make decisions.”

Councillors approved a motion in December to ask the commission for an audit plan that would outline which parts of the Edmonton Police Service are being audited and provide insight into policing priorities.

But commissioners have declined to share the information, saying EPS’ budget is included in the city’s financial statements and already subject to an independent, external audit each year.

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Standing by its decision, the commission said council does not have operational oversight of the police service and is unable to direct any operational recommendations stemming from an audit.

“We wouldn’t want to release what weapons and how many weapons and what type of weapons the service would have, for example, because there may be some organizations out there that are not looking for that information for something good,” McDougall said.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Police Commission, city council at odds'
Edmonton Police Commission, city council at odds

He said council only has a right to know where taxpayer money is being spent. But Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said that isn’t good enough.

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“We are seeing some of that happening, but not to the level where Edmontonians expect to see visible presence of police officers,” he said Friday.

“How is that happening? I don’t know. That kind of information is not available.”

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The commission requested on June 6 to meet with council and an independent, third-party facilitator to improve the working relationship by “examining the roles and responsibilities of councillors and commissioners” to move forward constructively.

The commission consists of two appointed city councillors — Jo-Anne Wright and Anne Stevenson — along with 11 appointed citizens from all walks of life.

Recognizing the strain between the two groups, Wright told Global News both want to do what’s best for Edmontonians.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton police commission refuses to provide audit details to council'
Edmonton police commission refuses to provide audit details to council

She also appreciates the commission’s offer to have a facilitated conversation.

“It’ll be a lot easier to discuss rather than a five-minute questioning that we do in council,” Wright said.

Stevenson said councillors are hoping the discussion leads to more information being released.

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“You always want to be sharing more, that’s what builds trust, even if what you’re sharing misses the mark or people disagree with it,” she said.

“They still know that there’s trust there that there’s an openness.”

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