Citizen perceptions of Calgary police down across the board: survey

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Citizen perceptions of Calgary police down across the board: survey
WATCH: It seems Calgarians generally feel less safe in the city than they used to. As Sarah Offin reports, the Calgary Police Commission released the results of the 2022 Citizen Satisfaction Survey. – Sep 28, 2022

The perception of Calgary as a safe place to live in is at its lowest since 2009.

Fewer Calgarians think the Calgary Police Service can keep the city safe and the satisfaction rate of CPS has also taken a hit.

That’s according to the latest citizen satisfaction survey presented to the Calgary Police Commission on Wednesday. Illumina conducted phone surveys of 1,000 Calgarians in May and June for the report that has a 3.1 per cent margin of error.

“While this year’s results are not surprising, they are still disappointing,” said Shawn Cornett, Calgary Police Commission chair Wednesday afternoon. “I imagine many members of this service will be discouraged by the results, but there are still things that I hope they will take note of… The vast majority of Calgarians are still satisfied with policing in Calgary and still have confidence in their police service.”

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From 2011 to 2020, the percentage of people who thought Calgary was a safe city to live in was in the mid-90s, as measured by the annual report. In 2022, it fell nine percentage points to 85 per cent.

The number of Calgarians with concerns about violent crimes, transit safety and homelessness jumped, but house break-in fears lowered compared to 2020. Illegal drug activity remains a top concern in the city.

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The survey also showed a decline in the public’s opinion of officers’ professionalism and competence, with percentages declining from the low-90s to the high-70s since 2015. And perceptions of accountability took a hit from 2020, dropping from 75 per cent to 63.

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CPS Chief Mark Neufeld said he was disappointed by the latest survey results.

“We value the relationship we have with the community,” he said. “And we’ve got a lot of great people that come as we discuss to serve, you know, to join the police service, to serve the community.”

The survey analysts said police around North America have taken successive hits to their reputation recently, following events like the killing of George Floyd, the pandemic and police having to enforce public health orders.

“It’s almost like a perfect storm,” Neufeld said.

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Calgarians thought the CPS improved most in four areas: dealing with crime, the policy for handling mental health issues, better communication and having more officers and staff.

That’s on top of the top four most-frequently-mentioned areas Calgary police did well: making citizens feel safe during interactions, being available during emergencies, solving cases and “cracking down” on crime, and being visible in the community.

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“The areas that Calgarians have identified as needed improvement are areas where work is already underway to create change,” Cornett said. “While the complexity of this work has been made slower than any of us hoped, (CPS) members should be proud that they are already focused on the things that matter to the community.”

More than three quarters of respondents – 77 per cent – said they trust the CPS, a dip of eight per cent from 2020.

More than half of respondents thought the police service was not adequately staffed.

The Calgary Police Commission will be using the report to inform the commission’s budget submission to city council as part of the upcoming four-year budget cycle.

“I look back historically to the great work that’s been done by the men and women that served in the service before us, and they build strong levels of trust,” Neufeld said. “But if you look at those numbers, that’s not a bad news story. The bad news story is the drop here.

“And I think we can be proud of the numbers that were there (in the survey). And it’s up to the men and women and all of us now to be able to bounce back and to be able to to bring those numbers back up based on the day-to-day interactions that we have.

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“I’m totally confident our folks are up to the task.”

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