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Alberta NDP promises 150 more officers, same in support workers

There are similarities in the work already underway in Calgary and with UCP public safety commitments.

Alberta’s NDP rolled out their public safety plan, promising more officers and integrated transit teams.

The plan, which is the NDP’s latest election policy plank, was unveiled outside the Calgary Court Centre on Sunday afternoon. Calgary-Bhullar-McCall NDP candidate Irfan Sabir, and Calgary-Buffalo NDP candidate Joe Ceci made the announcement.

The plan calls for the funding of 150 police officers for Alberta municipalities and 150 support workers that will join them to create integrated teams. The NDP said the police officers would go in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, Fort McMurray and elsewhere.

The 150 social workers would include mental health workers, addictions counsellors, Indigenous-led outreach and community outreach as a part of the teams.

“Three hundred frontline partners, working together with a focus on safety and support,” said Sabir.

Earlier this month, the United Conservative Party said they would be coming up with funding for 100 more officers – 50 each – for Calgary and Edmonton. They were also providing $5 million for transit station cleaning and another $8 million invested in the creation of additional police and crisis (integrated) teams.  That would double Calgary’s contingent from 12 to 24 (PACT) teams.

The UCP also promised an additional $5.67 million last week to help address addiction and social disorder in downtown Calgary.

UCP candidate and current public safety minister MLA Mike Ellis responded Sunday.

“The NDP are late on this issue. They rushed out a half-baked announcement that Notley didn’t even bother attending,” he said.

“At their core, the NDP do not believe in this issue.”

The NDP plan would be funded by reversing the UCP change made in 2019 to take more of the fine revenue generated by Alberta police forces.

RELATED: Only Calgary sees fine revenue as police funding, says the province

“If an Alberta NDP government is elected, we will reverse these cuts. We will invest in better policing and stronger communities,” said Sabir.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek commented last week on the fine revenue cut.

“As a result, instead of being responsible for about 76 per cent of police funding, we’re now responsible for more than 80, so the city can’t continue to bear this burden,” she said.  

“We have made this request several times. We wait and see if it’s going to be reinstated. And with the provincial government that has indicated their desire to ensure that the police service is strengthened, this would be a great way to bring some strength back.

Province, city, police service have been working together

The province and Alberta’s major cities struck public safety task forces late last year, with a handful of announcements that have followed.

Alberta Sheriffs were deployed in pilot projects in both city’s downtowns and along transit lines. The province also announced new addictions beds in Calgary as well.  

Last year, the City of Calgary and the Calgary police also launched a co-location effort with Calgary 211 to divert non-emergency mental health and addiction calls to a non-police response.  That’s diverted more than 3,200 calls over the past year.  

In February 2023, there was a Community Mobile Crisis Response program pilot launched by the Calgary Police, the City of Calgary and the Alex Community Health Centre.  Those teams intervene in emergent situations and have case management follow up.

So far, they’ve re-directed 32 calls away from emergency response services.

The NDP plan said it will direct further resources to these kinds of programs. They will also provide wraparound services and support community agencies in health, mental health, housing, harm reduction, addictions treatment and access to training and employment to address the roots causes of crime, they said.

“Everyone in Alberta has the right to be safe,” said Sabir.

“This requires a commitment to diversity and to strong community engagement and leadership. Today’s social problems are getting more complex so our solutions must be more comprehensive.