Stability for Calgarians was at the heart of the Calgary Police Commission’s announcement Friday that Calgary Police Chief Constable Mark Neufeld would be having his contract extended to 2027.
Chief Neufeld, who took over the role in 2019, was the fifth Police Chief in five years at the time of his hiring—a fact that Police Commission Chair Shawn Cornett emphasized while making the announcement.
Other challenges she said that CPS had faced over the tenure of Chief Neufeld were bullying in the service, financial and economic stressors, addressing systematic racism in policing, and policing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As our commission looks ahead to the next few years, we believe that the service is coming out of these years of churn with the right direction for the future. Strong stable leadership will ensure that the work that matters to come hearings will continue uninterrupted,” she said.
“Chief Neufeld has demonstrated strong leadership and is championing many of the priorities that matter to Calgarians. Our commission is very happy to have his leadership continue for the next four years.”
Chief Neufeld said that he was grateful for the opportunity to continue as Chief Constable and that his continuance in the role was a reflection of the work that CPS members had done more than about himself.
“We remain absolutely committed to serving and protecting the citizens of Calgary—stability and consistency and direction and priorities will actually help us to do that as we move forward,” Chief Neufeld said.
Work started on improving policing will continue
Cornett said that having Chief Neufeld continue in the role would preserve the relationships that have been built over the past few years between the CPC and CPS.
“The partnerships that we’ve developed between the service and the Commission and the city have been front and center of the last couple of years,” she said.
Those relationships, she said, would make things more consistent and stable.
Cornett said that the Commission had looked into a variety of different factors, such as the service’s own internal engagement surveys, market evaluations, and salary evaluations.
“We took into consideration lots of different information… so there was a lot of input that came to the Commission,” she said.
Chief Neufeld said that the work that Calgary police have been doing to provide a modern police service and to address morale issues within the service, would continue.
“I can tell you that our police service is fantastic at operations, investigations, and our work in the community—second to none—but I think what our Achilles heel was, and one of the challenges was, with our internal services, including HR,” he said.
Part of the continued work he would be doing was putting permanent civilian professional members of the Calgary Police Service into roles like human resources.
“We’ve got all kinds of civilian professionals that have come in that will stay in those roles and continue to deliver those services,” Neufeld said.
“Those types of services won’t be things that the public would necessarily access directly, but I think where it’s important is the employee experience and the fact that people actually feel better about the way that the organization runs.”
He said that would translate indirectly into a higher quality of policing that the public would see on a daily basis.
Staying to finish the work
Chief Neufeld said that the contract extension was also a reflection of his own desire to see through the work that CPS had started.
“When I came in, I certainly had a very clear mandate to be able to do some things. I think nobody anticipated a pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, defund the police, and all the things that have happened over the last number of years,” he said.
“I feel like we’re beginning to get some traction on a number of very important, very important initiatives, and so it’s going to be important, I think, for that stability to keep going with that.”
He said that the work on continuing to improve public safety, especially in the downtown core and on transit was one area he wanted to continue to work on.
Addressing morale issues in the context of police officers being killed across Canada was another.
“We’ve seen 10 police officers lost in the last nine months, I believe, and nine of those were to violent murders. So a very, very difficult environment out there,” Chief Neufeld said.
“We need to be supporting people who are doing the work, and I would go even further and say supporting their families as well, in talking to the members of beyond the blue spouses’ group, the partners group for our members here in the service.”
He said that he also wanted to continue to work on the crisis response model the service uses and to address the complexities in policing.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from Calgarians that they want us to evolve the crisis response model, to bring in sort of a non-police response to low-acuity-type mental health calls, and also some of the disorder calls. There’s been a lot of work done in that regard.”
“There was a lot of calls, probably 30,000 or 40,000 recently, that we realized that we probably should not be going to, historically. We’ve done that. Now we’ve made some changes. We don’t do those things.”
Lastly, he said he wanted to work on recruiting and retaining officers.
“We’re trying to continue to step up and we’re staffing up at full capacity. We’re also looking at the demand side and see how do we take some of the pressure off of folks on the frontline,” Chief Neufeld said.
“I think for me, looking after people in the organization so that they can deliver the important services to people in the community, that’s a huge one.”