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2 former police commissioners say Edmonton city councillors should not be on board

The Edmonton Police Commission discusses cold cases Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.
The Edmonton Police Commission discusses cold cases Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Global News

A former member of the Edmonton Police Commission says the two members on the public oversight board that are city councillors should be dropped.

Murray Billett, who started serving in 2002 through 2009, sees a conflict of interest, because the city councillors are serving two masters.

“My concern was and continues to be with city councillors on the police commission — they are making crucial decisions for the police service.”

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The province confirmed last week that the Police Act will come up for renewal. It was last looked at in 2006, after being passed in 1988. Very early conversations have already begun.

Foremost for a potential conflict is money.

City councillors on the Edmonton Police Commission vote to support a police budget, then are asked to vote again wearing their city councillor hat on the police piece of the larger overall city budget. Billett sees that as less than good governance.

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“City councillors that are on the police commission can’t not think about the election box because if they make a decision, are they basing that decision on getting re-elected, or are they making that decision based on what’s most important for the police service?”

READ MORE: Relationship with commission has been ‘caustic’: Outgoing Edmonton police chief

Billet was unaware city council already dropped its representation on the commission for a three-year period between 1998 and 2001.

In 1995, Robert Noce was appointed one of the council representatives on the Edmonton Police Commission. He was on the board until 1998.

“Often times I felt conflicted because I knew certain information that had an impact or could have an impact on the city generally, but I couldn’t share it with my colleagues on council because of the Police Act and the confidentiality requirements of a police commissioner.”

After the 1998 election, Noce was part of a city council that voted to drop participation on the police commission as well as other decision-making boards.

“After ’98, when council removed members of council from the commission, life went on,” he said Monday in an interview.

READ MORE: Billett resigns from Edmonton Police Commission

“We still got the level of information we, as members of council, always received, in terms of what the police service was doing, why they needed more money and how they could justify more money. So nothing really changed other than having two members of council on the commission.”

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He agrees with Billett’s stance.

“I just don’t see a real benefit or real game changer in terms of having members of council on the commission. It will not matter at all.”

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After a public backlash, city councillors were re-instated in 2001 with the next city council. However, that was the only board that saw a reversal.

READ MORE: Dispute over contract length ends Edmonton police chief’s tenure

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board also dropped its two council members in 1998 in Rose Rosenberger and Dick Mather. Council representation was never brought back.

The two current members of the commission who are on city council are Sarah Hamilton and Scott McKeen.