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Defund the Calgary police: Need to define it first, says chief

While Black Lives Matter movements have spurred calls for cities to defund the police, Calgary’s police chief said defund needs to be defined first.

In a meeting earlier this week with media, Calgary’s Chief Constable Mark Neufeld said everyone has a different idea of what defunding police means. 

“For some, this is about diverting money, for some this is about dismantling police and for others, it’s about disarming police,” he said.

“I think we’re talking about defunding the police before we define what we want them to do, and what we don’t want them to do and perhaps exploring legitimate options for addressing the demand in a practical and effective way.” 

With talk of changes within the service, some people think provincial changes should be made.

Kelly Sundberg, associate professor in the department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University, said he thinks there needs to be a college for police officers. 

“We have a great opportunity right now with all this talk of a new (provincial) police department to establish the Alberta College of Policing,” he said. 

“What a professional college would do for policing is create a body of knowledge and scholarly back information about the profession of policing. What are the best practices in policing; we truly would have evidence-based policing.”

Transparency and accountability

One major concern is that officers aren’t trained well enough on race and aren’t transparent with their race-based complaints. 

The Calgary Police Service doesn’t currently keep track of such complaints. 

The Calgary police professional standards section is responsible for addressing public and internal concerns and complaints about the conduct of police officers.

According to CPS, they track any allegation of discreditable conduct. This can be based on racism or any kind of discrimination that’s alleged. 

In 2019, Calgary police had nine allegations of discreditable conduct. In 2018 they had 17 allegations and in 2017 they had 16.

Since there is no way to track race-based complaints, there are concerns about transparency between the police and the public. 

Sundberg said having something like a police college is a way to keep police accountable.

“A college of policing would ideally be legislated, then we know that there’s transparency and accountability, which will then lend itself to credibility and legitimacy in policing,” he said. 

Seeing the value in community

Neufeld said the Calgary police add value to community. 

“I think that’s been the hallmark of the Calgary police service for many years is our connection to community,” he said. 

“I believe the police play a crucial role in our community and contribute immeasurably to public safety and community safety – and well being more generally.”

Despite Neufeld’s words, a lot of people think the police are untrustworthy and unwilling to work with the community.

Sundberg said that by bringing the public into the policing world, there will be a better understanding of what police do and how they make their decisions.

“It’s really about public education, public awareness, public accountability and truly bringing policing into a community focused approach, so that when the police are doing a tough job to keep our society, safe and secure there isn’t misunderstanding,” he said.