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Calgary officers believe changes to Police Act are needed

Calgary police believe changes to Police Act are needed
The Calgary Police Service says there are a number of recommendations from the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association it would like to see put in place. Adam Toy reports.

The Calgary Police Service says there are recommendations from the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association it would like to see put in place.

The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25 has prompted protests and questions about police practices worldwide.

READ MORE: Practices of Calgary police questioned in wake of George Floyd protests

CPS said it has believed for several years the Police Act needs to be reformed.

In a statement, CPS suggested a streamlined process for investigations into police and people coming forward with complaints about police conduct be part of the entire investigation process.

“We have believed for several years that the Police Act needs reform to bring it more in line with modern policing and to give police services better methods of addressing employee misconduct,” CPS said Friday.

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Police acknowledged that more could be done to have the right expertise respond to mental health and addiction calls. CPS said it has “been working in this direction for years,” citing the Police and Crisis Team (PACT), Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership (DOAP Team), Youth at Risk Development (YARD), Multi-Agency School Support Team (MAAST), ReDirect and the Domestic Conflict Response Team.

“One thing has been made clear over the past weeks. We need to take a hard look at policing in this province and make sure we have the right people responding to the right calls and a robust system of accountability for [how] those calls are handled,” CPS said.

“We are very open to this discussion and appreciate the views of everyone. While we may all not agree on everything, there is definitely a lot of common ground on which we can move forward to build a better future.”

READ MORE: Calgary police chief addresses video of police kneeling on woman during arrest

The CTLA wants to modernize the Police Act by:

  • creating independent civilian oversight of police complaints
  • limiting the amount of time for the Crown to decide on investigations into police
  • prioritizing the use of alternative models when police aren’t the best responders
  • allowing people to sue police in small claims court for damages from police interactions that don’t end in criminal charges

READ MORE: RCMP defence of Chief Allan Adam’s arrest shows ‘pattern of behaviour’: Qualtrough

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Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot said his community has been building bridges with surrounding RCMP detachments but feels there are some cases of police going too far.

“If you have to subdue somebody, I understand that and I do realize it’s a tough job,” he said.

“[But] a man should never die at the hands of police.”

READ MORE: ‘Defunding’ police and funding mental health resources will save lives, experts say

Calgary criminal defence lawyer Sarah Rankin is part of the group of Alberta lawyers demanding police reforms.

“Increased accountability mechanisms, both through the Police Act and through small claims, have the individual effect of meaning that people who are mistreated by the police can access justice, which currently is not the case, and that’s a significant impact,” she said.

“In the aggregate, having claims come to light increases public knowledge. One hopes it increases police accountability and deters bad behaviour.”

Rankin said none of the recommendations are new but we are at a moment when people are paying more attention.

“For Canadians who haven’t had negative experiences with police, particularly Canadians that aren’t experiencing systemic racism, I think for the first time they’re seeing a lot of disturbing footage and a lot of stories come to light that they’re not familiar with,” she said.

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“There is a renewed interest and a renewed energy that I think is valuable.”

– With files from Adam Toy