City, police announce joint plan to counter racism in Edmonton

The City of Edmonton and the police have formally launched a joint work plan with the goal of making neighbourhoods safer and curbing racism in the city. 

Plan includes 70 steps to improve safety

Thousands protested against systemic racism in Edmonton last summer. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The City of Edmonton and Edmonton police have formally launched a joint work plan, which aims to make neighbourhoods safer and curb racism in the city. 

Police Chief Dale McFee, city manager Andre Corbould and Micki Ruth, chair of the police commission, announced the initiative on Thursday. 

The plan includes nearly 70 steps aimed at building a more diverse workforce within the City of Edmonton and the police.

The organizations will try fresh recruiting practices to attract more employees from diverse backgrounds and communities, and training will focus on diversity and inclusion. 

McFee said some of the steps will address equity, inclusion and racism within 90 days.

"The key word in this plan is 'work'," McFee said during a news conference. "This is not another report that will get shelved and collect dust." 

The joint plan called "Safer for All" comes almost a year after public hearings into policing at city hall, where hundreds of people shared stories and concerns about systemic racism in the city. 

In March, a task force on community safety and well-being reported back to council with 14 recommendations to curb systemic racism. 

    Corbould acknowledged the task force and people who gave testimony during public hearings. 

    "We heard you, and we do believe you," Corbould said. "We believe that by addressing these systemic issues, all Edmontonians will benefit from your courage."

    The plan includes enhancing social responsibility and becoming more transparent by developing an online reporting dashboard. 

    A prevention approach will aim to divert vulnerable Edmontonians away from the justice system when possible, Corbould said. 

    A community outreach transit team will respond to situations involving overdoses, public intoxication, mental health crises, and issues related to the safety of transit users.

    In-car video cameras will be added for police officers. 

    McFee said the team will present a larger plan involving community partners in early 2022. 

    Coun. Aaron Paquette said he was pleased about the police's leadership on the task force and thinks there will be a lot of positives.

    "It's a great first step, but we still have work to do to address the very real safety concerns of Edmontonians —specifically for members of our BIPOC communities as I think we've all seen pretty clearly over the past year," he said in a statement.

    Joint dispatch centre

    The city and police have been developing an integrated joint dispatch system, revamping how resources are sent to calls for service. 

    A coordinated response includes crisis diversion and mental health teams, police, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel and a new co-located building. 

    It's one step that is likely to be in play within the three-month timeline. 

    "That 90-day action sees things like the joint dispatch project moving forward with great clarity in terms of direction from the chief for myself," Corbould said. 

    Several organizations — Alberta Health Services, Boyle Street Community Services and the Canadian Mental Health Association — worked with the city and police and consultants on a business case for the joint dispatch centre. 

    Council's community and public services committee is slated to review the joint work plan and the joint dispatch business case at a meeting on June 30. 

    The report says further work is needed to explore cost efficiencies stemming from physical co-location.