Future of flood-ravaged Arrest Processing Unit debated

Calgary's mayor waded into the debate on where people who are recently arrested by police should be jailed in the future after the Arrest Processing Unit downtown sustained serious damage when flood waters hit the city.
There is a debate happening on where to keep people arrested in Calgary after the processing unit was damaged by floods. 2:15

Calgary's mayor waded into the debate on where people who are recently arrested by police should be jailed in the future after the Arrest Processing Unit (APU) downtown sustained serious damage when flood waters hit the city.

While the cells in the courthouse are being used temporarily, Naheed Nenshi says that should be the permanent solution.

The flood-ravaged APU, which is about 50 years old, faces about $30 million in repairs.

There had been discussions about building a new facility before the flood, but today that conversation has ramped up.

"There's a big, big, big conversation about that particular one yet to come," said Nenshi. "For now — because of the damage — when police arrest someone, they head to the holding cells in the courthouse."

Judges oppose idea, says minister

There is a chance the building may have serious structural damage and may not be worth fixing, according to the Calgary Police Service. (Courtesy of Don Kuchinski)

Only a few of the 300 cells are used daily for those who come to the Calgary Courts Centre for appearances.

The facility is said to be able to fully accommodate an arrest processing facility with a few tweaks, but many judges at the Calgary Courts Centre are not on board with the idea.

"They have made significant objections to me about having the actual facility in the same place as the courthouse, wanting to keep the administration of justice separate from actual incarcerations," said Alberta's Justice Minister Jonathan Denis.

However, the mayor had strong words for those who oppose its use. 

"There is a way to do it that won't cost anything and it requires a few people to change their perception on life and I hope that those people will change their perception on life and save the taxpayers of this province 30 million bucks and that's all I'm going to say about that," he said.

Engineer report needed

But while Denis wouldn't rule it out, he says arrest processing is the responsibility of the City of Calgary.

"What I need to do is receive the city's engineer report and see if the current APU is viable, so until we have that particular information we're dealing with a moving target," he said.

Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench chief justice was asked for a comment today, but declined.

The Calgary Police Service says there's a chance the building may not be worth fixing.

"If we can, we will," said spokesperson Kevin Brookwell. "If not, then we'll have to look at that alternative."

Lots of options on the table

He says there might be major structural damage.

"If we have to look into the future, a lot of options will be discussed and we will find a suitable location that will serve us well into the future," said Brookwell.

He said some options include the Westwinds police detachment, other locations in the downtown core or the Calgary Remand Centre.

"I think a lot of those are still on the table," he said. 

Brookwell says it really depends on the assessment of the building, how much damage there is and how much it's going to cost.

With files from CBC's Meghan Grant