Calgary Police $8M contribution to community safety investment framework to be decided in early 2021

The Calgary Police Service headquarters in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Calgary Police Service remains committed to anti-racism work, but the decision on whether to add the proposed $8 million from their budget to the newly-formed community safety investment framework is still yet to be decided.

“It’s still early days in terms of the framework,” CPS Chief Mark Neufeld said.

“Going forward, we’re really interested in seeing what opportunities there may be that are brought forward by community partners and also looking at costing models for some of the internal opportunities where the programs we’ve referred to that are actually existing.”

Calgary Police Commission Chair Bonita Croft said the commission will also be involved in deciding on where that $8 million will go, based on a proposal coming to the January 2021 commission meeting.

“There is not a specific plan yet,” Croft said. “It’s all quite fresh coming out of the decisions of council last week.”

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Read more: Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld discusses racism, use of force and defunding police

Tuesday’s commission meeting was the first time Neufeld publicly commented on city council’s decision to leave the proposed $8 million in the police budget and instead add $8 million of its own in seed funding for the framework.

The CPS chief said the seed funding “enhances capacity for innovation” in alternative call response models and is a “real win” for both police and citizens.

Neufeld repeated the commitment to reallocating funds for alternative call response models, relieving officers from calls involving mental health issues and persons in crisis.

“CPS proposed initially to reallocate funds to do this work, and we remain,” he said.

Ahead of the commission meeting, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he would be “shocked” if the police decided against contributing to the framework.

“I would be surprised if we didn’t see a significant financial contribution from them, given that in their own budget they’ve already allocated eight million dollars to this work,” the mayor said.

CPS deputy chief Katie McLellan shared a report of the internal anti-racism work the police have completed since their original commitment to council in September.

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Read more: Calgary police provide update on anti-racism, use of force work

CPS has formed an anti-racism action committee, met with community organizations like the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good, and have met with internal and external advisory boards. Police are also working to improve “crisis triage,” a process involving sharing info with other agencies to identify “high-system users” and opportunities for better coordination and intervention points between agencies.

Calgary police are also in the process of selecting an external expert to produce a longer-term anti-racism roadmap for the police service.

The commission also heard an update five months into the CPS’ equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work.

“The focus is on gender and intersectionality and is grounded in an evidence-informed approach to social norms and cultural dynamics,” deputy Raj Gill told the commission.

Calgary police plan to have a consultant on board this month to begin integrating the EDI tool, with training on it to start in the early months of 2021.

Click to play video: 'Calgary looking at what changes, if any, are needed for city police'
Calgary looking at what changes, if any, are needed for city police

More work to be done

Taylor McNallie, co-founder of Inclusive Canada and member of Defund2Fund, told the commission that none of the dozen community organizations she’s involved with have been consulted by the police or commission with regards to the new anti-racism board members yet to be named, saying “transparency is definitely not there.”

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Chief Neufeld told reporters that coordinating with bodies like the city, CPS and the commission requires careful coordination in order to complement efforts, recognizing there’s still work to be done in community engagement.

“I think we have to center the work that we plan to do and some of our initiatives on the lived experiences of members from our community,” the police chief said. “And those obviously are experiences that we don’t have.”

Neufeld added that police agencies tend to bias towards speed and efficiency.

“I think this work is much different,” Neufeld said Tuesday. “I think this work requires us to slow down and make sure we’re engaging with those communities to get those inputs.”

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