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Calgary city council, CPS begin discussion on police funding

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld outlined a plan Thursday to change policy and to reassess and reallocate Calgary Police Service (CPS) funding.

Chief Neufeld spoke at a special meeting of Calgary city council following months of calls to defund police and three days of public hearings on systemic racism in the city.

Earlier this year there was a wave of Calgary protests that demanded police accountability and a reassessment of their budget. They also pushed for a reexamination of their role in the community.

The CPS plan

Chief Mark Neufeld described himself as a “white man in a police service in North America.” He emphasized that he wants to use his power and privilege to disrupt the system.

He said CPS agrees that police are not the best first responders for mental health or addiction crises. The job has been given to the police because they operate on a 24-hour basis.

The CPS have agreed that they will use some of their budget from 2021 to help fund organizations who are better trained and equipped to handle other issues.

The police may not be the best institution to handle all things, said Neufeld.

“And that’s OK.”

Addressing systemic racism

During a three-day public hearing July 7 to 9, city council unanimously voted that systemic racism exists in Calgary.

In the days that followed, plans were made to formally condemn systemic racism and commitments were made to becoming an anti-racist city.

These commitments including the police establishing an anti-racism team.

While some believe the team is necessary, others think that defunding or reallocating resources won’t solve racial inequality.  

In a letter addressed to Mayor Nenshi, Alberta MLA and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said defunding the police is a misguided approach that will do more harm than good.

Originally tweeted by Kaycee Madu (@KayceeMaduYEG) on September 10, 2020.

“An adequately funded police service is essential to ensuring all citizens are able to live safe and secure lives,” said Minister Madu.

“This is particularly true of racialized members of our communities…”

Canadian context

While the report mentions the killing of George Floyd several times, Coun. Evan Woolley noted there is no mention of the violence against Godfred Addai-Nyameke, who was the victim of police brutality in Calgary in 2013.

Neufeld stated that among the policies that police need to change are those around the use of force.

“We recognize that the use of force rule is an important issue,” said Neufeld.

Moving forward

While some councilors agreed with the police report and the outcome of the discussion of the meeting, some opposed it.

“This ideology of defund the police is designed to destabilize our safety,” said Coun. Chu.

The Ward 4 councillor is a former police officer.

The meeting concluded with some city councillors voting to receive the CPS report for information.

Couns. Chu and Coun. Magliocca voted against accepting it.