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CPS satisfaction remains high, but race questions impact responses

The Calgary police suffered a decline in trust and perceptions of respectful treatment of citizens after the death of George Floyd, according to responses in a recent citizen satisfaction survey.

Overall, 93 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with the Calgary Police Service. Further, 94 per cent believe Calgary is a safe place to live.

The citizen satisfaction survey, done by Illumina Research Partners was released Tuesday. More than 1,004 Calgarians participated in a 22-minute telephone survey between May 6 and July 3, 2020. Data was collected proportionate to demographics of specific CPS districts.

The extended timeframe was to minimize the impact of point-in-time events, the survey report read.

An overwhelming majority of respondents in a wide range of categories expressed approval of the work done by the Calgary police. However, when it came to issues over use of force, dealing with different segments of the community, working with at-risk youth and partnering with community organizations, that approval dropped significantly.

One area that saw the highest ‘disagree’ rating was to the statement: CPS is adequately staffed.

Thirty-eight per cent said that they disagreed the CPS was adequately staffed, easily the highest mark among the 20 statements. Still, its lower than the 48 per cent ‘disagrees’ recorded in 2018.  

“This survey is a valuable tool that allows us to put community values at the centre of police operations,” said Bonita Croft, Chair of the Calgary Police Commission.

“It helps us understand the needs, experiences and concerns of citizens so we can evaluate how CPS is performing and oversee reforms to make CPS more responsive to all segments of our community.”

2020 Calgary Police Citizen… by Darren Krause

Impact of George Floyd on CPS perception

Illumina surveyed Calgarians on the Calgary police both before and after the death of George Floyd.

Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota on May 25. That death sparked outrage and protests across the world. Several Black Lives Matter rallies drew thousands in the city.

The City of Calgary held a special public hearing on systemic racism in the city. Calls for defunding of police services and issues with the use of force grew louder.

There was a noticeable decline in how favourable Calgarians viewed the police after Floyd’s death.

On whether the police treat people with respect, prior to Floyd’s death, 54 per cent strongly agreed. It dropped to 45 per cent strongly agreed afterwards.

On the question of whether the police provide the same level of service to all citizens, nine per cent disagreed prior to Floyd’s death. Afterwards, that number more than doubled to 21 per cent of respondents who disagreed.

“I was not surprised, but we certainly were very interested in seeing those results,” said Croft.

“Everybody across the globe has learned more about the issues that were brought to the fore with George Floyd. Certainly, it is obvious that that is showing up in our survey and it is driving engagement in these questions.”

Defund the police?

The report noted that less than one per cent of citizens (10 of 1,004) specifically mentioned the idea of defunding the Calgary police.

“I don’t agree with ‘defund the police’ but I do believe there is a better way to distribute money in the communities to prevent crime,” one respondent was recorded saying.

“Like funding social services, mental health initiatives, proper funding of schools, better training for officers, and taking a better look at addictions to combat it rather than putting a band aid on it.”

In this year’s survey (pages 48 and 49), there was a new aspect to the survey. It included the perceptions of CPS from different minorities in the city.

Overall, Indigenous Calgarians have the lowest perception of the Calgary Police Service. They’re followed closely by Black Calgarians.

  • with files from Omar Sherif / LiveWire Calgary