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Public safety task force debate will head to Calgary city council

The idea of a public safety task force will head to council next month, but one councillor who sits on Calgary’s police commission said they need to be wary of duplication.

Coun. George Chahal and Mayor Nenshi brought forth the joint notice of motion to the Priorities and Finance Committee Tuesday, asking for council to direct administration to create a public safety task force that will report back with advice and recommendations on dealing with gangs and gun violence.

There have been more than 80 gun-related crimes in Calgary over the past year. Multiple incidents have already been reported this year, with at least four people shot and killed in the city since Dec. 26.

Chahal has spoken to LiveWire Calgary on two occasions about his multi-pronged approach to the problem. The call for action stemmed from a July 2019 town hall where Chahal brought multiple stakeholders together with the community to talk about rising gun violence.

“I think in Calgary, we have an opportunity to tackle this issue head-on, find a way to address the issues are we’re having to ensure that this doesn’t get worse moving forward, but we actually combat it and make sure as your city grows, and we are actually seeing less and less of this moving forward,” Chahal told LiveWire Calgary in the past.  

Police’s civilian oversight body not involved… yet

At Tuesday’s meeting, Coun. Jyoti Gondek questioned why the Calgary Police Commission hadn’t been brought into the loop.

“It’s a bit concerning to me that Council is directing a task force and has dealt directly with the police service on that. But the oversight body hasn’t been consulted at all,” Gondek said.

Gondek said she wanted the city to go back to the police commission – the citizen body that oversees the Calgary Police Service – to find out what kinds of similar community-based programs they are championing, so there’s either a way to find cohesion, and, perhaps, avoid duplication.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said this wasn’t specifically a police service task force; instead, it was a broader conversation about community safety.

“It’s important that members of the community, some of whom may feel, shall we say, alienated from the police service because of their own background or countries that they come from or so on, have the opportunity to participate in this way,” said Nenshi.

“It’s felt that that community-based piece could actually be very helpful for them. It could be a piece that’s missing in their current investigative capabilities.”

Similar to Calgary addiction strategy – an ounce of prevention

Both Couns. Sean Chu and Jeromy Farkas agreed with Gondek, suggesting the police commission be consulted before it comes back to council.

Coun. Druh Farrell, said the motion should go to council where it could be debated more fully.

“There is a sense of urgency. People are afraid, but I see this more like our approach that we’re taking with addictions,” said Farrell.

“With addictions, the police end up with the end result, but there’s a preventive role that the city can play. That’s way more important, frankly.”

Councillors approved moving it to council in a 4-3 vote.