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Confidence in safety, efficacy of Calgary police down in 2022

Decreased survey results by Calgarians follow national trend in reduced trust in policing

The 2022 Calgary Police Commission Citizen Satisfaction Survey results showed a sharp decline in confidence in police and city safety compared with 2020 results.

Survey results now have 85 per cent of Calgarians feeling like Calgary is a safe city, down from 94 per cent in 2020, and 96 per cent in 2014.

Satisfaction with the services provided by the Calgary Police Service, and confidence that CPS can deliver needed services to make a safe city are also down to 85 and 85 per cent respectively from 93 and 94 per cent in 2020. The results were largely in line with the Spring 2022 pulse satisfaction survey performed by the city, which found satisfaction with CPS was at 81 per cent, down 5 per cent from 2021.

“I’m disappointed,” said Chief Constable Mark Neufeld.

“We value the relationship we have with the community, and we’ve got a lot of great people… to join the police service, to serve the community, and so to see a drop like that is never good.”

Trust in CPS dropped from 85 per cent to 77 per cent over the past two years. Perception of professionalism decreased from 85 per cent to 79, and competency from 85 per cent to 77.

Calgarians were even less likely to see police as effectively addressing people in crisis, with a drop from 81 per cent in 2020 to 68 per cent in 2022. Perceptions of compassion and fairness were both similarly down in terms of percentage points, with compassion down from 81 to 71 per cent, and fairness down from 70 per cent to 61 per cent.

Accountability percentages also took a hit, dropping from 75 per cent to 63 per cent.

The 2022 survey was performed by Illumina Research Partners, which surveyed 1,000 Calgarians. Results were predicted to be accurate for the general population of Calgary, plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 95 times out 100. Research was paid for by the Calgary Police Commission.

Drop in perspective a national issue

Chief Neufeld said it was understandable to see drops in the perception of police in the city, given broader national trends. He pointed to the “spotlight and spin" that has been placed onto policing during the pandemic.

"The changes and challenges that were dealt with with respect to everything from the enforcement of COVID restrictions, which was something new for policing, protests and demonstrations, and staffing issues, and all of the things—it's almost like a perfect storm,” he said.

He pointed to the numbers showing a super-majority of Calgarians still having confidence in the police as one positive outcome from the survey.

"The bad news story is the drop here and I think we can be proud of the numbers that were there, and it's up to the men, and women, and all of us now to be able to bounce back and to be able to to bring those numbers back up based on the day-to-day interactions that we have,” Chief Neufeld said.

Of the surveyed Calgarians, less than half, at 48 per cent, reported having an interaction with police within the previous 12 months. Only 35 per cent of those surveyed said they had an in-person contact, 20 per cent a telephone contact, 16 per cent followed CPS on social media, 9 per cent used online CPS services, and 9 per cent had email contact. One per cent of Calgarians said they didn't know if they had contact with police or not.

Chief Neufeld said that this re-enforced that perception is reality, despite a minority of surveyed participants having contact with police.

Yvonne Brouwers, President and CEO of Illumina Research Partners, said that they identified a number of factors that could have affected responses this year.

"A few notable factors have affected policing in Calgary, and may have impacted citizen perceptions of the Calgary police service,” she said.

"The lifting of all public health restrictions during the COVID 19 pandemic that's infected everything, the anti-racism movement, and declining perceptions of police services nationally and across North America."

She said that the overall trend in declining perception of service satisfaction was not just occurring in Calgary, but nationally, and globally.

Majority of Calgarians still say police meeting delivery expectations

Between 56 and 74 per cent of Calgarians continue to say that the service is meeting their expectations, depending on the type of service being provided.

Response time and investigations into violent crimes had the least amount of dissatisfaction among Calgarians, with just 9 and 12 per cent saying service did not meet expectations. These services also had the highest amount of exceeding expectation responses, with between 15 and 16 per cent.

The highest amount of dissatisfaction in the city came with services around addressing drug, gang, and organized crime violence, handling people in crisis, and investigations into property crime. Dissatisfaction with those categories ranged from 29 to 33 per cent.

Sentiment towards the service also remained high above 80 per cent, although declined from responses in 2020, for categories like "I would help the Calgary Police Service if asked," I feel a moral duty to follow police orders," and "I generally support how the Calgary Police Service usually acts."

Among the greatest service delivery issues identified by survey respondents was the number of police officers employed by the service. A majority at 56 per cent said that CPS is not adequately staffed. Only 12 per cent were in high agreement that the service was adequately staffed.

Also at issue was crime prevention through community agency partnerships, with 47 per cent of respondents saying that this was not effective.

Overall Calgarians continue to believe that CPS is reducing the level of crime in the city. This too was down to 77 per cent from 86 per cent in 2020.

Action on specific crimes, social disorder demanded by Calgarians

Only 27 per cent of Calgarians said that they have no issue of great concern.

A quarter of Calgarians responding to the survey said that illegal drug activities were their greatest concern, up from a low of 16 per cent in 2015.

Concern over violent crimes has spiked, going from just 2 per cent in 2018 to 23 per cent in 2022. This followed a similar spike in transit safety, up from 1 per cent to 9 per cent in 2020.

Only the category of house break-ins was in decline, going from a high of 34 per cent in 2016 to 13 per cent in 2022.

A total of 72 per cent of Calgarians placed reforming how police officers are held accountable for misconduct as essential or a high priority for the service. This was followed by 71 per cent for creating an alternative model for mental health and addictions call response, 65 per cent for equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, and 52 per cent for diversifying the work force.

Chief Neufeld said that the service was well positioned to address these concerns going forward. He noted the similarity between the survey results and internal surveys done amongst service members.

"Just noticing that, and thinking of the same sort of internal issues we're facing around getting updates around progress to employees, it's the same sort of thing here,” he said.

"With the town halls, with the engagement, with the diversity advisory boards, and the anti racism committee... I think now we're in a better position than ever to be able to get out face-to-face again to address those particular communities, around those particular issues."

For the entire survey results, see the Calgary Police Commission website at www.calgarypolicecommission.ca/reports.