Outgoing Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht says instead of issuing an apology to the LGBTQ community, the service is developing a long-term strategy.
In his last Coffee With The Chief event as head of Edmonton’s police force, many people were expecting Knecht to issue a formal apology on behalf of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) related to past, historical treatment of the LGBTQ community.
“This came to my attention obviously after the Calgary apology came out and it became an issue here in Edmonton,” Knecht said on Tuesday.
In July, Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin issued a formal apology to that city’s LGBTQ community for how police spoke out against the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969 and struggled to embrace the new law when it passed. He also apologized for police denying permits to Pride parades in the 1980s and failing to consider the impacts of a 2002 bathhouse raid.
But Knecht said instead of simply saying sorry, Edmonton police wanted to develop a more long-term approach.
He said over the last few months, the EPS has been having discussions with various community groups as well as within the force.
“We’ve talked to our own employees that joined… ‘What was your experience? What did you go through? Do you see these sorts of things? Do you see any discrimination or anything going on internally? Anything that caused you not to apply for the police service?'”
Watch below: Rod Knecht is stepping down from his position as Edmonton’s police chief this week. Gord Steinke sat down to interview Knecht on Monday.
He also has a community consultation group that has helped facilitate conversations in the wider community.
“The feedback I got was they were very split on it,” the police chief said. “You had folks that didn’t want an apology, didn’t care about an apology and you had folks that wanted an apology and everything in between.”
Despite criticism about taking too long, Knecht said community consultation was key.
“Some folks would say: ‘It takes way too long and why didn’t you just come out and apologize?
“We didn’t want our apology to be trite,” he said.
“I didn’t want it to be, ‘Well, let’s just check off a box and then everything will go away and we don’t have to worry about this.’
“What we’re doing right is we have built a strategy that will — it’s not about Chief Rod Knecht; it’s about the Edmonton Police Service and what are we going to do long term.”
Knecht suggested that larger strategy will be up to the next police chief to implement.
“People will say, ‘Oh he’s just giving an apology but he’s going out the door so it means nothing.’ People are going to believe that and they’re entitled to their beliefs.
“What we wanted to do was to establish a strategy that would go on certainly beyond me and beyond the next chief and would be part of the culture of the Edmonton Police Service.”
He said the strategy has been shared with certain community group representatives, there’s been feedback, consultation and revisions.
“You’re going to see a strategy roll out here fairly quick here and it’s going to be a strategy that will go on beyond an apology… I think it will build relationships into the future.”
Watch below: With just days until he retires from the Edmonton Police Service, Chief Rod Knecht is speaking candidly about his time with the force. Vinesh Pratap reports.