Nathaniel Schmidt understands the need to get timely information out on people wanted by the Calgary police.
He felt the recent #Valencrimes campaign, in its second year, risked perpetuating a stigma around the people being profiled. So, he said something about it.
The Valencrimes social media campaign run by the Calgary Police Service created Valentine’s Day cards with people wanted on warrants. The cards had information on the suspects, including what they were wanted for, and it was delivered with a poetic touch – as commonly found on greeting cards.
“I totally agree that increasing engagement in these kinds of things is a positive,” Schmidt told LiveWire Calgary Friday, a day after CPS Chief Mark Neufeld put an end to the program.
“A campaign like this will draw more attention, but it’s an attention that sort of creates a stigma that, in a lot of cases, isn’t necessarily true.”
Schmidt is a law student at the University of Calgary, and he participates with an organization called student legal assistance. In doing that, he said he regularly meets with low income Calgarians that need help navigating the courts.
He posted a Twitter thread shortly after the campaign launched and received hundreds of likes and stirred up conversation on the CPS Valencrimes effort.
“It just adds to the stereotypes that already exist, that we need to separate ourselves from anybody that commits a crime in our society, and that they should sort of automatically be ridiculed like this,” Schmidt said.
Valencrimes campaign pulled after public response: CPS Chief
In a post Thursday evening, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said this program wouldn’t be continued in 2021, and the profiles put out this year would be deleted.
“It is important for us to be regarded as a police service that cares about its citizens – all of them – and can be trusted even by those facing difficult situations and/or are involved with the criminal justice system,” he wrote.
“We want to be acting corporately in a manner that aligns with our values of compassion, respect, and fairness. Although our intention was simply to use humour and the holiday to generate tips regarding the location of various individuals, we appreciate how the messaging could be received as lacking in sensitivity and respect.”
In the post, Neufeld acknowledged they “generate a significantly higher response” and tips that typical notices they post on social media. In 2019, of the eight individuals profiled in the Valencrimes campaign, five were located and arrested.
“Driving police innovation and engagement in the social media space is far from an exact science,” Neufeld wrote.
“We applaud and encourage the initiative and creativity of our employees as they have done and continue to do excellent work to build positive connections with our community. Though we recognize that a good portion of the public supported the ValenCrimes initiative, we were persuaded by the thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary of the segment who expressed concern.”
Schmidt happy CPS willing to ‘listen’
Schmidt received a direct response from Chief Neufeld on his contribution to the debate.
“I think any recognition of it being an issue is great,” Schmidt said.
“They were willing to listen, and they were willing to be the public’s police force, which is what they are.”
Schmidt’s glad the campaign won’t be back but isn’t opposed to other innovation to draw attention to the city’s criminal element.
“Obviously… the police need to publicize certain things. But I think if they can do it in a different way, then you know, I think that’s better for everybody,” he said.