Calgary Police Commission calls for provincial summit on public safety, racism

The Calgary Police Commission is calling on the government of Alberta to hold a provincial summit on the future of public safety in communities.

“Though it may not be comfortable for many of us to question our own privilege or to dive into the reality of systemic racism, it’s the only way to make progress towards a more just society,” chair Bonita Croft said in a Tuesday meeting.

“Police commissions, police services and even cities cannot move forward with meaningful systemic changes without including the province and the involvement of community advocates and organizers.”

Croft said the commission sent a letter to provincial justice minister Doug Schweitzer on Monday.

Read more: Calgary officers believe changes to Police Act are needed

“The magnitude of the topic requires leadership on all levels including the province, and a summit could support the province’s efforts to modernize the police act by defining the role of police, officer training and accountability structure, as well as looking at the role of other agencies in delivering services to citizens in need,” she said.

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Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld said he and members of the service are having regular meetings with community groups such as Black Lives Matter and will continue to do so over the summer.

“Even though we had very good relationships with the community here in Calgary, it wasn’t enough. They weren’t as good as perhaps we thought they were” he said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the beginning not being defensive. We took a step back and said, ‘We are going to make sure we are going to listen and better understand and define the issues that we’re facing so that we can better understand what’s the best way to move forward.'”

Read more: What does ‘defund the police’ really mean? Experts say confusion harming progress

In an emailed statement, press secretary for Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, Jonah Mozeson, said the minister has spent several weeks speaking with stakeholders, including chiefs of police and Indigenous representatives, to accelerate a review of the Police Act.

“Last week, he participated in a discussion on policing with ministers of justice from around the country, including federal Minister of Justice David Lametti,” Mozeson said.

“He looks forward to working with the Calgary Police Commission and many of the stakeholders they are suggesting to ensure our law enforcement best meets the needs of Alberta’s communities.”

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On the question of defunding police, Neufeld said there needs to be a conversation to define the role of police, adding police are often the first to respond to issues not involving crime.

“Once we look at this systemically, I think we’re going to find lots of resources in the system. And the issue may very well be how we coordinate the resources for the best possible outcomes for the people in need,” Neufeld said.

“I think when we bring the right people to the table and start having these constructive discussions, I think some of the answers will become far more clear.”

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