Calgary police will get funding for 50 additional street-level officers as the province announced more help to tackle public safety in Alberta’s major cities.
The announcement of the development of a plan for 100 officers split between Calgary and Edmonton was made at the Sunalta LRT station in southwest Calgary on Tuesday.
Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis is tasked with working with his cabinet colleagues to develop a plan to have the officers on Calgary streets over the next 18 months.
“I spent 12 years working on the streets of Calgary as a proud member of the police service. During that time if there’s one thing that is crystal clear is that having a strong police presence is what makes our streets safe. It’s not rocket science,” Minister Ellis said.
“The additional 100 police officers in Calgary and Edmonton will make our communities safer.”
Along with the proposal to fund 100 officers, the province committed to a $5 million grant to keep transit stations clean. They also said that $8 million would be invested to support the creation of 12 police and crisis (PACT) teams in each city. That would double Calgary’s contingent from 12 to 24 teams. These units provide mental health assessment and support from mental health professionals paired with officers.
The province would also like to see command of transit peace officers transferred to city police forces. They said this would ensure a better and coordinated response.
“When something as essential as public transit becomes a no-go zone, and when entire communities live in fear, a red line has been crossed,” said Premier Danielle Smith.
“The province is prepared to do whatever it takes to restore our cities to safety.”
On Monday, the City and Calgary police announced they would be boosting the number of officers along transit and adjusting patrols to help curb violence.
Funding the officers
Minister Ellis said that each officer costs roughly $150,000 annually, making the total commitment $15 million.
When asked if this would be funded today by the province and in the future offloaded through city budgets, Ellis said it wouldn’t.
“We’re not passing it down,” he said.
“We’re not going to download this to the municipalities,” Minister Ellis later said in response to another question.
Government officials later told LiveWire Calgary that it would be continuous funding, through public safety grants.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said they’re grateful to see additional resources being committed on the heels of yesterday’s announcement.
“We reiterated at that time that transit is an essential service at the core of any major city and people should not have to think twice about using it,” the mayor said.
“Council has heard loud and clear that more needs to be done.”
Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said they too welcome the support. He said the help will immediately address the situation on the ground.
“We remain committed, as we’ve continued to say, to leading with services and compassion, but we have seen that that isn’t enough,” Chief Neufeld said.
“Any of those who are committing crimes and causing concerns with behaviour in public spaces, have become entrenched and many have become resistant.”
Chief Neufeld said that the only challenge would be the Calgary Police Service’s capacity to train more officers. They have the capacity to train 135 – on driving tracks, shooting ranges and other infrastructure.
“We’re going to be recruiting and training as quickly as we can,” he said.
According to data in the provincial release, calls for service at Calgary LRT stations increased 39 per cent when comparing 2021 and 2022.
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley responded to the announcement, saying it mirrors funding taken away from police force fine amounts in 2019.
“Let’s be clear about what’s going on here. Soon after getting elected, the UCP took away fine revenue funding that Edmonton and Calgary used to pay for policing,” Notley said via media release.
“The amount the UCP are announcing today is comparable to what they took away from policing in 2019.”