A week after it was revealed Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht’s contract won’t be renewed, he’s opening up about his “troublesome” relationship with the Edmonton Police Commission.
Knecht said his relationship with the commission is the root cause of his tenure as chief ending in October.
“There’s, I would say, more than tension,” Knecht said. “I think sometimes the relationship was caustic and that was troublesome.”
City councillor Scott McKeen said the police commission directed tough questions at Knecht but he never witnessed anything “less than civil” during meetings.
“I’m really surprised and a bit upset to hear him use a term like ‘caustic’ because I thought both sides were being really professional, all the way along,” McKeen said.
“The commission asked a lot of questions that I think sometimes rubs a paramilitary organization a little bit, but I never saw in those meetings a time where the chief or the deputies were clearly upset with the questions.”
Ward 5 Coun. Sarah Hamilton echoed McKeen’s comments, saying the interaction between the chief and commissioners during meetings she attended were “extremely professional.”
“I’d heard the police chief describe the relationship between the commission and the senior management as having much improved, so to hear a word like ‘caustic’ is a bit jarring,” Hamilton said.
Indeed, Knecht said his relationship with the commission has recently improved, but he noted that happened after four new members joined.
Knecht said the issue with the commission revolved around trust and the interpretation of the 40-year-old Police Act, which outlines the commission’s responsibilities. The chief said the act is outdated and caused conflict between him and the commissioners.
“If you look at the responsibilities of a police commission under this Police Act, it’s very ambiguous and it’s subject to a lot of interpretation,” Knecht said. “That isn’t very good in today’s world, where police are so accountable”
“I think you need a Police Act that describes to a tee the responsibilities of a police commission and the relationship between the police chief and the police commission.”
Knecht said the commission is designed to be a “buffer” between police and local politicians that holds the police service accountable on issues such as finances and priorities. But he said that isn’t always the case.
“The police commission cannot get involved in operations. Nobody is allowed to get involved in the operations of the police service. That’s sacrosanct. That’s the responsibility of the police chief,” he said.
“You know exactly where that line is. I learned where that line was over time, and there’s a certain line that can’t be crossed into operations.”
Knecht said he was surprised and frustrated when the commission didn’t agree to extend his contract. He would have liked more clarity, but he’s ready to move forward, he said.
“I’m good with it, quite frankly. It’s five months from now,” Knecht said. “I can still get some things done, but I’ll try to leave the organization in a place that will help the next chief be as successful as he can possibly be.”
Knecht has been Edmonton’s police chief since 2011 and his contract expires in October.