Edmonton city council votes to create community safety task force

Edmonton city council voted Monday to begin the process of re-evaluating the future of policing and community safety in the city.

Mayor says he was grateful for the discussion about policing over the past few weeks

City council approved the task force in July after weeks of public hearing into policing in Edmonton. (CBC)

Edmonton city council voted Monday to begin the process of re-evaluating the future of policing and community safety in the city.

Council approved a multi-pronged motion that directs the city and the police commission to study several aspects of the system and advocate for changes to the Alberta Police Act.

The motion came in response to demands for major changes to policing, after thousands demonstrated against systemic racism and police aggression in June.

Council held public hearings last month where it heard from about 150 people who expressed a range of concerns about policing, some of whom called for defunding the police.

In wrapping up the marathon debate, Mayor Don Iveson said he was grateful for the discussion over the past few weeks. 

"I'm not grateful for all of the history that is before us on a global scale and all of the hurt and pain that is within it, "he said, "right here in our community and around the world as a result of colonization, slavery, exploitation, oppression."

The motion includes cutting $11 million from an estimated $389-million budget in 2021 and redirecting savings to support community development, human services and housing. 

Coun. Aaron Paquette said he has heard stories from others and experienced racism himself. But "defunding" the police service wasn't the suitable approach, he said. 

"I don't think it's the right word for what we're doing," Paquette said during the meeting. "What we're doing is reallocating and taking a look at how we can best be efficient in order to get the outcomes that our communities desire."

Several councillors said one of the most important parts to the motion is creating a community safety and well-being task force. 

Coun. Ben Henderson said it's a chance to explore what society now expects from a police service.

"I think we have a really remarkable opportunity, and this is, I think, the question that was raised by all the people we heard from.

"We need the supports that can keep everybody healthy, and well and safe, and that has got to be the objective of everything that we do."

Council asked administration to report back in August with terms of reference for the task force. Council also wants the task force to review practices to reduce racism, discrimination and excessive force.

Other highlights of the motion include:

  • develop a plan to integrate the city's social services with EPS community safety and well-being department.
  •  create a joint dispatch centre that could merge social service partners including police, fire, peace officers, EMS, crisis diversion and mental health teams.
  • options to hold transit Peace Officers accountable for excessive use of force, including an arm's length oversight mechanism.
  • analyze bylaws commonly used to police loitering, jaywalking, riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, and suggest clarifications, revisions or repeals.
  • review a 2018 consultant's report entitled on Street Checks Policy and Practice Review.
  • look at opportunities to strengthen the public complaints process on police conduct, particularly around excessive force complaints.

Council also wants to work with other Alberta cities to analyze "cracks in the system" that drive crime, disorder, and demand for reactive community services. 



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