Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said he can be a better policing advocate from the outside rather than in.
Walcott tendered his resignation to the Calgary Police Commission on Tuesday. He was in the first year of a two-year term. The resignation is effective Oct. 31, 2022.
The first-term councillor rose on the political scene during Black Lives Matter movement, and then via Calgary’s Defund2Fund organization. The latter group advocated for a 30 per cent reduction of the Calgary Police Service budget so it could be reallocated to other areas of service delivery.
After Walcott was elected in Ward 8, he was appointed to the Calgary Police Commission.
In an online post, Coun. Walcott said that he was grateful for the time he spent on commission and the work he was able to do. He said he joined with the intent of bringing about transformational change to the CPS.
“I intended to find out why, given all we know about the complexities of need, community safety, and well-being, policing remained our number one resource for community safety,” he wrote in the post.
Later, in an interview with LiveWire Calgary, Walcott said he’s served his purpose on the Commission.
“It’s a cumulative decision, to be honest,” he said.
He said when you look back at some of the policing events – Thin Blue Line, Latjor Tuel’s death – he felt he had little latitude to speak freely. He said he respects the role of governance and felt it was proper to defer comments to the chair (Shawn Cornett).
Now, there’s a flexibility and clarity to advocate for changes where he’s not bound by governing body rules – except council.
“I can actually invite the community into a conversation that’s not structured around a five-minute call-in period,” Walcott said.
Commission is in a healthy place, Walcott said
Walcott said his satisfaction is difficult to earn. It would have been hard to achieve everything he wanted over the past year. It’s been difficult to drive change in policing for the past couple of years given the protests, Covid-19, provincial elections and more, he said.
That doesn’t mean the effort isn’t there.
“My belief is very firm that there’s a strong commitment between the commission and the (CPS) executive leadership team,” he said.
“I’ve served my purpose. The Commission’s actually in a relatively healthy place. The commissioners that they have on there, the work that they’re doing, the plan that they have ahead of them, they’re in a very good place.”
The CPS has been working on their anti-racism plans. They have undertaken a number of initiatives in the community. Earlier this month, they joined a handful of partners to launch a mobile crisis-response pilot project for non-emergency calls. That’s being funded from money set aside by police and the city for the Community Safety Investment Framework.
Walcott said there’s an understanding that change needs to happen.
He said there’s still work to do. We’ll get a glimpse of how council feels about further change with the upcoming four-year budget.
“I also look forward to the opportunity to speak a little bit, and support, and get the voices of the community more involved in some of this change than I was able to do as a commissioner,” he said.