The Edmonton Police Commission has begun a national search for a new police chief. It comes one day after Global News learned current Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht’s contract would not be renewed when it expires in October.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, the police commission thanked Knecht for his seven years of service, acknowledging his work with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Chief Knecht has been committed to delivering a professional level of service exceeding expectations through his focus on adaptive leadership, heightened accountability and enhanced relationships,” police commission chair Tim O’Brien said.
“Chief Knecht ushered in a milestone last year which marked the 125th anniversary of the Edmonton Police Service. The celebrations included many community focused events. His ongoing commitment to employee engagement resulted in the Edmonton Police Service being named one of Alberta’s top 70 employers in a competition that recognizes the best places to work.”
In an interview with 630 CHED in mid-April, Knecht said he was on the verge of a new contract agreement. Knecht has not yet spoken publicly about the situation, but Councillor Scott McKeen said Thursday the chief came to his own decision and this should not be seen as the commission “forcing chief Knecht out.”
“If anything, it was just a scheduling issue I think… I think it was just trying to reach the right time,” McKeen said. “Chief Knecht was not going to be around much longer anyway so it was just trying to work that out, I think. So, ‘not being extended’ sounds like the commission has a problem with chief Knecht and that is absolutely not the case.
“The chief is leaving, I think, on a high note. I think he will be leaving at the top of his game. I think that’s a good thing.
“That is a job, and I would say probably like (a) city manager, where they are the toughest jobs in the world. You’re under intense pressure from your board of directors, from the public, from the unions and from staff – intense pressure all the time and I think, what, seven years? Probably he exceeded everyone’s expectations by a couple of years. I think most chiefs and chief operating officers, it’s kind of like a five-year gig, give or take. I just want people to know the police commission hold chiefs in the highest regard.”
Mayor Don Iveson said he’s really enjoyed working with Knecht and wished him well in his retirement.
“I really respect his ethic as a police leader, not just here in our city but he’s known nationally and internationally for the way he’s handled a number of things, up to and including the events of Sept. 30 last year,” Iveson said. “I have nothing but good things to say about the chief and I’m sorry to see him go. I think he was phenomenal to work with but those decisions are between the chief and the police commission.
“I have nothing but good things to say about chief Knecht and the very, very mature relationship that he and I developed.”
Iveson said the commission will now have to find a new leader who will have a focus on community.
“I’m hopeful that our new police chief will be somebody who is very comfortable with community policing, can build on some of the work that our police service has done that is nation-leading with respect to working with vulnerable people, working with mindfulness around reconciliation and the circumstances that many vulnerable Edmontonians find themselves in,” he said.
Iveson also stressed the successor will also need to be able to “demonstrate that they can run a $400-million organization accountability and efficiently because it’s the biggest expenditure of the city. And then frankly, you have to be a fairly shrewd public service leader to operate in the complexities of police governance, particularly when it comes to things like budget.”
McKeen said Knecht was a terrific chief who leaves behind big shoes to fill.
“I know that chief Knecht has put together a really high calibre senior team at the EPS and I suspect there’ll be a number of candidates, internal, that will be given a lot of scrutiny. Because there’s advantages to both, right? But do we need to bring in fresh eyes to correct the course and vision of the Edmonton Police Service? I would say no,” McKeen explained.
“The commission was under its own pressures to get a national search going. We want to assure Edmontonians that we are going to try to find someone of that calibre. He has huge shoes to fill, he or she, whoever that is. The commission wants to be comfortable too that it has enough time to do a really good search and do the proper evaluations so that Edmonton gets the police chief it deserves.”
Knecht was sworn in as the 22nd chief of the EPS on June 7, 2011. Over the years, he’s been at the forefront of several major police incidents in Edmonton, including the tragic death of EPS Const. Daniel Woodall, who was the first officer killed in the line of duty in Edmonton in nearly 25 years.
Knecht also led the EPS through the HUB Mall shooting at the University of Alberta in 2012 and the vehicle rampage outside Commonwealth Stadium last fall, when one of his officers was rammed by a suspect vehicle and stabbed several times.
Knecht was expected to speak to the media on Friday, however due to a last-minute family emergency the event was postponed to sometime next week. Edmonton police said in the meantime, a prepared statement regarding his contract would be released later Friday.
With files from 630 CHED’s Scott Johnston.
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