Edmonton’s new police chief has set up a bureau to deal with the rising number of social disorder calls.
Chief Dale McFee said too many officers are being tied up with lower priority calls to service like public impairment.
“We’re not doing anything to take calls for service out of the system,” said McFee, “when 92.7 per cent of our calls for- ervice are priority fours and fives.”
The unit called Community Safety and Well-Being will focus on demand reduction; often times officers are dealing with the same people over and over again. The chief said that call volume and workload could be dragging down response times.
While police need to be held accountable, McFee said he doesn’t get hung up on time frames.
“What’s the difference between nine minutes and seven minutes?” McFee pointed out.
“The reality is if you’re not there in the first two minutes on a critical incident call, it isn’t going to matter.”
In the 2018 annual policing plan report card, the Edmonton Police Service was handed a “C” grade for response time performance.
Police have set a target to have officers dispatched and arrive on a scene within seven minutes, 80 per cent of the time. Last year, the EPS reached that target 72.5 per cent of the time.
McFee said measuring the impact of call reductions would be more effective, but police alone can’t do that.
The chief said the growing problem of methamphetamine on Edmonton streets and across Western Canada is a prime example.
“As a community, we have to figure out what the solution is and we know that the solution to crystal meth isn’t going to be enforcement only. It’s got to have a public health component.”
As the Community Safety and Well-Being unit rolls out over the next six to nine months, the chief expects it will also free up police to do more proactive community work.
The chief said Edmonton has the second-worst crime rate in the country, but changing that won’t happen until policing is approached differently.
“We need to become the smartest police service in Canada and the way we react to crime shouldn’t be the way we reacted to crime 10 years ago.”
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