Some of Calgary police's budget could be divided to various agencies, chief says

Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld says organizational changes are coming to the service, many of which he hopes will help address public concerns about racism.

Mark Neufeld spoke during a special hearing Thursday on anti-racism and the Calgary police

Chief Mark Neufeld of the Calgary Police Service said organizational change is coming to the service during a presentation to city council Thursday. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld says organizational changes are coming to the service, many of which he hopes will help to address public concerns about racism.

Those changes include conducting reviews of the school resource officer program and the use of force policy, while also putting a civilian in charge of the unit that investigates allegations of police misconduct.

Neufeld also said that some of the Calgary police budget could be redirected to agencies that are better suited to help people who have mental health or addictions issues.

"The best tool for the job, or the best first response for some of the calls that we go to, perhaps isn't the police," Neufeld said during a special Calgary city council meeting held Thursday.

"I think that's a fair discussion to have … but at the end of the day, we don't want to get into a position where we end up going as well and then also losing resources along the way. So that's an important part of the conversation."

Neufeld's admission that investigations into allegations of officer misconduct have "taken too long" also comes amidst a significant development on one case in particular.

On Friday, another Calgary police officer — recently convicted of aggravated assault while facing two disciplinary hearings — quit the service, dodging further allegations of misconduct.

Neufeld spent most of Thursday answering questions from council regarding how the service will address racism in the police, adding that systemic racism exists within the CPS.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he expected that the police budget would likely be reduced in the fall.

"Council has almost unanimously agreed that it has to be a tax freeze or better next year," Nenshi said. "That doesn't happen without every department finding savings, including the largest one."

In a release, the Calgary Police Association said it was "eager to contribute to further dialogue" on the proposals and measures outlined in Neufeld's report to council Thursday.

"It is important to us as an association, that the high quality of service, protection and the positive interactions our members have with the vast majority of our diverse population are also considered with any solutions for reform," the association said. 

"We support measures that will also allow our members to continue to do their jobs in a successful and effective manner and for the benefit of all members of our community, while always striving to be better."

Madu letter

The meeting was held the same day Kaycee Madu, Alberta's minister of justice and solicitor general, said he sent a letter to the mayors of both Calgary and Edmonton stating his opposition to the concept of "defunding the police."

Nenshi pushed back against that letter on Thursday, calling it "ridiculous."

"To time a ridiculous letter with ridiculous slogans in it while we're having this adult conversation just shows me you're not really interested in being part of that conversation. So it doesn't make any difference to me," Nenshi said.

In the letter, Madu said the province would monitor how municipalities manage police budgets and how they react to any calls to reduce police funding, adding significant changes might prompt the government to explore unspecified options.

"You know, I'm not really into veiled threats. If you want to make a threat, make a threat," Nenshi said. "But if your threat is, 'Don't defund the police, because if you do, then we'll defund them even more,' that seems a bit counterproductive if your goal is not to defund the police," he said.

"So the whole thing was, frankly, a bit ridiculous."

With files from Scott Dippel