Calgary

Is there systemic racism in Calgary police? 'I am not so sure,' chief says

Alberta RCMP say there isn’t. Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland say there is. Now Calgary’s top cop is weighing in on whether systemic racism exists in Canadian police forces. And as far as Calgary Police Service goes, he’s not sure.

But Mark Neufeld does fully support the controversial practice of carding

Chief Mark Neufeld of the Calgary Police Service says he used to think systemic racism was not a problem in his force. Today, he is not so sure. 1:05

Alberta RCMP say there isn't. Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland say there is. Now Calgary's top cop is weighing in on whether systemic racism exists in Canadian police forces.

And as far as Calgary Police Service goes, he's not sure.

"I would have probably a few weeks ago said no, and today I tell you, I am not so sure, and I am encouraged and engaged to learn more about it," Chief Mark Neufeld told reporters at a hastily called news conference Wednesday to cover a laundry list of issues police are facing.

That "not sure" is in contrast to the response of the RCMP's commanding officer in Alberta, who outright denied it earlier this week.

"I don't believe that racism is systemic through Canadian policing. I don't believe it's systemic through policing in Alberta," Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki told a news conference in Edmonton on Monday.

Neufeld was quick to draw a distinction.

"Talking about whether or not there is systemic racism in institutions, including the Calgary Police Service, and talking about whether people are systemically racist are two different things, because I do not believe that is the case at all," he said.

The chief acknowledge that others see things differently.

"There are a lot of people in the community who have much different experiences than I do," he said.

As some call to defund the police, Chief Mark Neufeld says Calgary police have been talking about ways to divert people away from the criminal justice system for a while now. 1:19

Neufeld did, however, throw his full support behind a controversial practice that has been called racist: carding.

Carding occurs when an officer stops and asks an individual for their personal information when there is no apparent evidence of a crime.

"I think they are an important part of police work," Neufeld said.

"In the past, we were able to learn from the experiences of the community. There was some disproportionality in the numbers, I suppose, but there are really strong reasons why we do do that."

He says Calgary's "program" is strong and yields results.

"I heard the number that 50 per cent of the time we submit what we call info posts, or street checks or carding, [they] relate to dispatched calls for service from the community. I understand our program is very solid and, yes, I do support the program."

Neufeld's predecessor denied the existence of such a program in Calgary in 2017, at a time when other Alberta cities were facing documented allegations involving people of colour.

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