Calgary

Public safety task force discusses gun violence, systemic racism

Calgary's community-based public safety task force met Thursday for its second meeting, and discussions reflected both its original mandate to combat gun violence as well as recently expanded directives to address systemic racism and discrimination.

Calgary Police Service 'open to discussing' reform, says Supt. Jepson

'Our work would be incomplete without discussing issues of racism and discrimination,' says Coun. George Chahal. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Calgary's community-based public safety task force met Thursday for its second meeting, and discussions reflected both its original mandate to combat gun violence as well as recently expanded directives to address systemic racism and discrimination.

The motion to create the task force was brought forward by Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal and was passed unanimously by city council in February.

Its objectives are to bolster citywide safety and counter an increase in drug- and gang-related violent crime involving firearms. It's hosting conversations between stakeholders, community members and the Calgary Police Service.

In the task force's second meeting, police addressed the increase of firearms in Calgary. They say shooting incidents involving injuries or death are above the five-year average.

So far this year, CPS says it has seized more than 200 guns — and warned there are still more on the streets.

"This is about government working with our police service, and working with the community, to make change, and look at new ideas and better ways to tackle this issue of gun violence in this city," Chahal said after Thursday's meeting at City Hall.

Directives broadened after George Floyd's murder

The meeting's agenda also included discussion about the roles of restorative justice and culturally appropriate training in crime prevention.

Chahal said the task force's ideas and conversations will now include culturally appropriate programs and services — and the role of police.

The expansion of the task force's directives to acknowledge systemic racism was announced in June.

It came as a response to protests across North America against anti-Black racism after the murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

"Our work would be incomplete without discussing issues of racism and discrimination, and they will be top-of-mind going forward," Chahal said in a press release ahead of the meeting.

He said on Thursday that defunding police, or reallocating funds to more appropriate bodies, are possibilities that are being discussed.

Supt. Ryan Jepson, who attended the meeting, said CPS wants to be community-based, and will approach discussions about potential reform with an open mind.

"We are certainly open to define, with the rest of the community, what the police should be doing," Jepson said.

"If there are other services available that are better suited to handle the problems in the community, we are certainly open to discussing that."

The next meeting of the public safety task force will be held in September.

With files from Helen Pike and Colleen Underwood

now