With citizens around the globe engaging in anti-racism and anti-police-violence rallies, many Calgarians may be wondering what training our police officers receive to help them address the diverse needs of our community.
Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Wednesday, Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld addressed that question, as well as the work the Calgary Police Service does to combat racism both on the streets and within the force.
“We certainly start around the people that we bring into the organization and how we hire,” Neufeld explained. “Firstly, trying to screen out individuals who may hold racist attitudes or have explicit biases, and also being very intentional about trying to increase the amount of diversity in the police service itself.”
Neufeld said officers also receive training on fair and impartial policing, which centres around “understanding implicit and explicit bias and discrimination and prejudice,” and “the ways in which policincg can actually have a negative impact on either people of colour, indigenous people or people that are vulnerable.”
Neufeld said CPS has “various” levels of diversity training, and they are looking at which of them should be made mandatory.
On June 3, the police service took to Facebook to outline the specifics of the race, bias and use of force training that officers receive.
According to the post, new recruits receive almost 30 hours of mandatory training and testing on “being sensitive to the diverse needs of Calgarians, bias-free policing and de-escalating situations through open communication. “
“Our officers are expected to complete ongoing training each year,” the post explained.
When asked how CPS screens for the potential of new recruits holding racist views, Neufeld said they have a “rigorous process.”
“Some of it has to do with provincial standards,” he explained. “During the background and the psychological testing, we’re trying to make sure that we’re not bringing people into the organization who may not be a good fit with our values and the community’s values.”
WATCH: Calgary police address some of the many questions the force has received on topics ranging from body-worn cameras to use of force and diversity in a June 10 news conference.
Neufeld said the police service has been engaging with the community over the last two weeks to gather more input.
“Certainly we’re hearing some interesting things about our use of force policies, we’re hearing some things about different types of training that could be out there, and so actually we’re looking at it all right now, and we’re looking forward to reporting back to the commission on that.”
How are complaints regarding use of force investigated?
Neufeld said officers are required to file reports in cases where the “use of force threshold is higher than empty-hand technique,” allowing the service to see exact numbers on how often force is used.
“Of the hundreds of thousands of interactions we have with Calgarians each year, only a small number of those result in a use of force, and then even a smaller number of that result in complaints,” Neufeld said.
“I would say that the complaint numbers, on average, that related to use of force are around 30 a year here in Calgary.”
Neufeld explains and responds to the defund the police movement
Amid growing global concern over systemic racism and police violence comes a movement advocating for the budget for Canadian police forces to be defunded, and taxpayer money be redirected to other services that focus on social supports and mental health.
When asked his thoughts on the defund the police movement, Neufeld said it was an “interesting discussion.”
“I think it starts with the premise that, over the past number of decades, there has been a defunding of other sectors of the public service — social services as well as public health, particularly mental health and addictions — and so a lot of the work that was done there previously has been transferred to the police just by virtue of the fact that we’re available 24/7 and 365 (days a year).”
“We end up responding to a lot of things that maybe we wouldn’t be the best first responders to go to,” he explained. “I think there have been some examples been given of mental health-type calls, suicides, these types of things.”
“I think the whole thing requires a good systems-level discussion about what resources are in the system and how we could best coordinate and use them.
“I think some of the examples are very American. In larger cities like Calgary, there are some very innovative programs in place already.”