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Calgary Police Service to undergo independent resource review

The Calgary Police Service will be getting an outside independent review of its operations in hopes of finding financial and operational efficiencies.

The city’s advertisement looking for an outside consulting firm to do the review work went up earlier this month. Calgary Police Commission chair Brian Thiessen said the idea came out of discussions at budget time last fall.

He said city council directed the mayor to ask the commission to have a review done of service delivery and costs.

“It’s akin to what the city has done on (Zero-Based Reviews),” said Thiessen.

Zero-Based Reviews (ZBRs) are independent reviews of city departments which look to find efficiencies without impacting frontline services. The city has already completed ZBRs on 67 per cent of its services, and has made financial gains estimated to be between $57 and $68 million.

Thiessen said that although the Calgary Police Service is one of the biggest line items in the city’s budget, the city can’t just treat it like another department and conduct its own review.

“It’s a weird scenario because the police commission has oversight of the finances of the service,” he said. “We can’t go through the city process because of the independent civilian oversight.”

Thiessen said it will take some time to get the report. The request for proposals has just gone out, and the review itself is likely to take the better part of a year.

Kelly Sundberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University, said he thinks such a review is a great idea, but he worries that efficiencies could be stifled by existing legislation.

“I think it’s only responsible to do an assessment of efficiencies and spending and these sorts of things,” said Sundberg.

“Part of the lack of efficiency comes from the Police Act and the act that governs the collective bargaining for police associations.”

He said arguably, there are efficiencies to be found on tasks such as guarding crime scenes, which he feels could be done by private security firms rather than diverting constables away from other tasks.

The province has already begun consultations on a possible overhaul of the Police Act.

“This review very well could inform the Calgary Police’s position on what that new provincial legislation could look like. And I think that’s really important,” said Sundberg.

Thiessen is reserving judgment on how much a ZBR-type process could save, but he thinks the idea is a good one.

“I don’t know if it’s as effective as some people claim, but I think it’s never a bad idea to review your processes and procedures,” he said.