The Edmonton Police Commission and city council are both facing criticism and questions following a more than two-hour-long meeting behind closed doors on Wednesday.
The Edmonton Police Commission is appointed by and accountable to city council. It consists of two councillors and nine citizens who live and work in Edmonton, with the aim of representing the views of all residents on policing matters, according to its website.
All Edmonton Police Commission meetings are held in public, with citizens able to watch either virtually or in person.
Two councillors voted against going in private Wednesday: Michael Janz and Anne Stevenson, the latter of whom is on the commission.
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi insisted the move was necessary.
“This was our first meeting. This new commission and this new council have never met before,” Sohi said.
Council does have legal requirements it must meet in order to hold private meetings. The mayor insisted those requirements were met.
“We wanna make sure that when people are sharing their personal stories, they’re sharing some of the vulnerabilities, that their privacy is protected,” he explained.
Tom Engel is an Edmonton criminal defence lawyer and chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association policing committee. Engel’s practice regularly involves policing issues.
“What personal stories would city council and the Edmonton Police Commission be sharing?” Engel questioned when being interviewed by Global News.
“That’s just baffling,” he said.
Engel said the timing was especially bad. Recently, there has been a push to cut police funding.
The Edmonton Police Service response to weekend convoy protests has been under fire and just last week it came to light that the service has owned a Cessna 182 plane for three decades, but the service never disclosed that to taxpayers.
University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola believes the mayor should be taken at his word but hopes recent issues were addressed in the meeting.
“I hope that council members used the opportunity to ask some very tough questions of the Edmonton Police Commission regarding the quality of oversight that the Edmonton police is receiving,” said Oriola.
Whether those questions were asked will not become public.