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On Monday, Edmonton's city council passed a comprehensive plan to reform policing in their city that will involve the police working more alongside social agencies to aid Edmonton's most vulnerable, according to Global News.
The police budget will be reduced by $11 million spread over the next two years and that money will be reinvested into supportive housing as part of the new provisions being brought forth.
“My hope is other agencies out there may bring some money to the table and some resources as well and realize collectively we are much more effective if we do it together than if we do it in isolation and silos,” said Chief Dale McFee.
McFee said the commission had previously asked for budget cuts to the Edmonton Police Service because of strains brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget cut will help the commission with enacting their new policing plan entitled, “Vision 2020,” which is geared toward helping the homeless. McFee is hoping that the reallocation of funds will help with more coordination amongst the police and social agencies.
“We’ll start to realize when it comes to our vulnerable population, community safety in relation to this population is way bigger than the police,” said McFee. "But if we collectively use our money, our resources, and our people to find better outcomes and to off-ramp them from the (justice) system, this actually could be a very good thing that could actually save a lot of money for the citizens of Edmonton, and more importantly give better outcomes for the people that actually need the services.”
Among the motions recently approved by city council was a submission to Alberta's Solicitor General to review the province's Police Act. An independent oversight into handling public complaints regarding police conduct such as ASIRT, is also being advocated for the council. In addition to that the council is looking for a better way to hold Transit Peace Officers more accountable in instances where they use excessive force.
A public task force will be responsible for implementing much these new provisions which aims to have terms of reference before city council by August. That would be the first step before positions of those who will oversee changes to the Edmonton Police Force could be filled.
“I think the most important part of this motion is indeed the task force,” said Councillor Ben Henderson. “I think (we) have a really remarkable opportunity, and I think this is the question that was raised by all the people we heard from, to be in the forefront of a real re-think about what we want to do with well-being in this city.”
Bylaw infractions for jaywalking, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk and loitering are also being reviewed.
Councillor Sarah Hamilton brought forth a motion to review the ConnectEdmonton goal which aims to make Edmonton that safest city in Canada by 2030.
“Edmonton has held the dubious title of one of the most unsafe cities in Canada,” said Hamilton. “Ten years ago we had the name ‘Stab-monton’ and our city routinely ranks high on the crime severity index which measures the amount of violent crime that happens per capita in each major city. In 2015 Edmonton earned the distinction of being the worst place to live in Canada if you’re a woman”
A potential new dispatch system which would combine 911 and 211 calls together is also being discussed which would stop armed police from being the first responders to mental health calls.
“We have to be prepared that the recommendations that come forward may be bold and transformative,” said Councillor Andrew Knack, who was responsible for tabling the original motion. “If that is what the community determines based on all of the best research, and analysis, we have to be ready not only to listen to that, but to follow it up and actually take action.”