I want to start with an apology. I know I have contributed to systemic racism in our city and I haven’t done enough, or possibly anything, to end systemic racism. For example, I can recall times where I have knocked on doors and spoken with people who start saying racist things about black, indigenous, and people of colour in our city. Instead of challenging it, I remained silent. That was unacceptable and that is one example of what is meant when talking about systemic racism.

While I do not believe I am a racist person, I have allowed racist behaviour to go unchallenged. That’s what is meant when people talk about being anti-racist. It’s not enough for us to not be racist, we each have to work to be anti-racist to help fix the systemic issues that exist. I haven’t been anti-racist and that is why I wanted to start with an apology. With that context, I’d like to take some time to address what has been happening over the last few weeks including the campaign to invest in community and divest from policing.

It’s been impossible for me to watch the entire video of George Floyd’s murder without breaking down. I know I’m not the only one. Since then, I’ve watched what has been happening in the US and across the world. The status quo has to change. It should have changed a long time ago but as noted above, people like myself have not taken the necessary steps to fix the problem.

Within the past week, I’ve received more messages about this topic than I ever have received about any other topic in my almost seven years serving on council. While there have been many issues that have generated a lot of public feedback, I’ve never seen anything like this before and I want to take some time to cover the requests that were made in the letter.

The first three parts relate to funding of EPS and they are as follows:

  1. To never vote to increase the EPS budget.
  2. To repeal the $75 million dollar budget increase promised to EPS in 2019. 
  3. To directly reinvest that $75 million in affordable housing, mental health programming, making public transit free and to community-led organizations (a short list is included below).

Before I cover these requests, I want to share the motion that was made yesterday. It’s a long motion but the part that relates to the budget can be found in 1.e.

“1. That Administration:

    1. Work with the commission to bring forward analysis on how many calls for service are driven by mental health, addictions, homelessness or other social and public health factors, and analysis for how many calls could be better responded to by partners through the scale up of existing programs like REACH’s 24/7 Crisis Diversion program, or new programs, with service packages for such programs for consideration as part of the Fall Supplemental Operating Budget Adjustments;
    2. Approach the City of Calgary and other Cities with Police Services in Alberta to jointly analyse the ‘cracks in the system’ in Alberta’s cities that drive higher crime, disorder, and demand for service for reactive community services including policing to inform the above;
    3. Engage external subject matter experts to bring a report summarizing trends and change models generally described under “divest” and “defund” including the recently approved Minneapolis decisions, any Canadian contextual examples, and the various demonstrated and proposed change models, including reference to the change model articulated in the End Poverty Edmonton Roadmap and the Plan to End Homelessness;
    4. That a) b) and c) come back to Committee in September;
    5. Informed by the above, that budget amendments for Council’s consideration for Fall Supplemental Operating Budget Adjustments to freeze the 2021 police budget at 2020 levels, and that the Edmonton Police Service Funding Formula policy C604 be suspended pending review and reframing as a Edmonton Community Safety Funding Policy informed by the analysis directed above;
    6. Report urgently on options to better hold Transit Peace Officers accountable for excessive use of force, including an arm’s length oversight mechanism, and advice on further submissions to the Alberta’s Solicitor General on the Police Act.

 

2. That the Mayor write to the Solicitor General regarding the pending expedited Police Act review:

    1. Advocating that an independent mechanism like ASIRT be given mandate for handling all public complaints about police conduct;
    2. That similar mechanisms for Peace Officer oversight and accountability be strengthened in provincial legislation; and
    3. Clarity of provincial law and policy with respect to Carding and Street Check policy and any findings and implementation plans arising from the Province’s recent review that can be shared.

 

3. That the Mayor write to the Edmonton Police Commission asking for the following:

    1. To provide advice to Council’s on EPC’s perspective on opportunities to strengthen the public complaints about police conduct, particularly around excessive force complaints, as part of the Police Act review;
    2. To invite participation in the work outlined in part 1, including proposals prior to budget for “smart on community safety and wellbeing” changes to policy, funding, programs and partnerships;
    3. To hold a public hearing and public inquiry on the EPS street check policies based on community concerns about informal Carding; 
    4. To provide information to Council on Dash and Body camera implementation pathways given Federal announcements, including costs and timelines.”

 

Since the motion will not be voted on until a Public Hearing is held in the next week or so, there could still be revisions or additions to the motion.

For those who read my pre-budget blog post back in late 2018, you will see that I did put forward a motion that would have resulted in an approximately $35 million increase in EPS budget from 2019-2022 instead of the originally requested $87 million increase. Normally, I would suggest that people who want to learn more, should visit the link above but I want to include an excerpt from that blog here as I think it’s a critical part of our discussion today.

“The largest impact listed in this report would be adjusting the proposed increase to the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) budget. On Tuesday night I was reviewing the budgets of the Calgary Police Service as they face similar challenges to the City of Edmonton. What jumped out at me was that if we were to approve the recommended budget for 2019-2022, the budget for EPS would be $424 million in 2022 which would put us $3 million more than Calgary’s Police budget in 2022. That would mean that even though our population is approximately 30% less, we would have a higher budget by 2022.

Every city is unique and so I appreciate that it’s not as simple as saying that our policing budget should be 30% less than Calgary’s policing budget but it is fair to question if we need to reflect on how that money would be used, especially when a new police chief will be starting early next year and Chief McFee has received many accolades for introducing new ways of policing that have had positive results.

For the reasons above and many others, I think the recommended changes for police in the link below along with some other changes not listed should be adopted and will be putting forward a motion to make those changes. What does that mean? First and most importantly, the Edmonton Police Service would still see a budget increase each of the next four years. I’m not suggesting we cut or even freeze their budget – the City of Calgary proposed a freeze for their policing budget in both 2019 and 2020. What I’m suggesting is that we reduce how much the budget will increase. This would still provide our police service with an additional $34 million over the next four years and Council always has the ability to make adjustments each year. I would also propose that this can be revisited next year after Chief McFee has settled into his new position and had the opportunity to review how we are providing policing services in our city.

For reference, Calgary’s Police Service will see a 4.9% increase total over the next 4 years. From approximately $401 million to $421 million. Taking into account the savings identified in the report below, EPS would see an approximately 10% increase over the same 4 years from $337 million to $371 million. That would mean that Edmonton’s policing budget would be about 12% less than Calgary’s policing budget with a population that is around 30% less.

In the end, my goal is to make sure we can clearly understand the impact of any money we spend. This week we had a number of our other agencies, boards, and commissions (ex: Edmonton Public Library) present to Council with almost every one of them presenting a budget with no increase over the next four years. Recognizing that our emergency services (Police and Fire Rescue) are critical, I don’t believe it’s fair to propose no additional resources and that view is shared in both the City budget survey as well as my budget survey. By reducing the size of the increase, we would be saving approximately $54 million over the next four years.”

With that context in place, I support what is listed in 1.e. because I believe that there are programs and services run by other organizations that would allow our police officers to be more focused on preventing crime. In this week’s council meeting we heard Chief McFee state that approximately 30% of the calls they respond to are social work related. While I know our police officers are highly trained, the skills required to be a social worker are not the same as the skills required to be a police officer. It’s not fair to ask our police officers to also serve as social workers. This is already an incredibly stressful job that so very few people choose to do and asking them to prevent and stop crime and be social workers is not reasonable.

I should also note that I struggle with the notion of taking back previously approved funding without a clear plan of what program and services we will be supporting. I don’t want to see our officers also be social workers but I don’t want to leave them short-staffed to deal with actual crime issues they were hired to deal with. Similar to the provincial health care budget, we know that it’s easy to fall into a trap and primarily or exclusively fund the reactive part of the equation.

When it comes to community safety, the city hasn’t done a good enough job of spending the limited financial resources on various social supports. It’s true that some of this would be provincial jurisdiction but as we have seen with affordable housing, which also has a direct impact on policing, there seems to be little appetite to start bending the cost curve.

If we don’t start doing things differently, we know what the future holds because we’ve been doing the same thing for decades. 10 years ago, the net operating requirement (revenue less expenses) for EPS was $236 million. This year the net operating requirement was $373 million. That level of growth is financially unsustainable and it accounts for a large percentage of our overall city budget. That level of growth also means that we have little to invest in other community programs.

There are too many times that I recall different community organizations approaching city council asking for $50,000 – $100,000 to run a program that will serve a large number of people in need. There are also too many times that I recall not being able to fund those requests because we’ve been trying to keep tax increases to a minimum, particularly since 2017. If you’ve read my yearly budget blog posts you know that increases to the policing budget regularly make up the largest portion of the increase. In 2016, I wrote this in one of my budget blog posts:

“The cost of poverty to our police service is large as they spend over 25% of their time responding to social disorder calls so by working to end poverty in a generation, we will actually save our city money in the long-term through reduced calls.”

There hasn’t been a fundamental shift in that time so unsurprisingly, the percentage of time that EPS now spends responding to social works calls is 30%. We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So it is time to complete a thorough review of the budget and determine how it can be used more effectively to produce the results we actually want. That doesn’t mean reducing their budget tomorrow, but it does mean not increasing the budget in 2021 and completing the analysis in point 1 of the motion listed above to inform the other necessary changes we need to make so that our police officers can focus on crime and they can be supported by a strong coalition of organizations that will provide the necessary social supports to those in need.

Some of the other requests that were included in the correspondence I’ve been receiving deal with governance and the process for investigations. I believe it’s important to review those areas so that the entire public can have confidence in the system and we also can ensure that our police officers feel safe in reporting any misconduct they witness. The motion listed above should address those concerns. 

The City of Edmonton as an organization has spent a lot of time over the last 4 years transforming the culture based on critical feedback we had received from city staff in employee engagement surveys. While I believe it is important to review this area so that the entire public can have confidence in the system, and our police officers feel safe in reporting any misconduct they witness. Chief McFee has also been working on the culture within EPS since he started a little over a year ago.  We need to do what we can to support this work in order to create an environment that works for both the public and officers.

The motion references the Police Act which is an important part of any transformation because it is the governing document that municipalities in Alberta are required to follow. For example, the Police Act requires that we have a Police Commission that will submit the budget requests and provide oversight of the work that EPS does. The provincial government has announced that they are going to expedite the modernization of the Police Act since there hasn’t been a full review since 1988.

One change that I would recommend we explore is increasing the number of public members on the Edmonton Police Commission. There is a maximum of 11 and considering the workload, I’m not sure that is enough support. Increasing the membership to 13 or 15 would also allow us to have greater representation that reflects the full diversity of our city.

The issue of systemic racism is not only going to be solved by talking about how police services operate. I believe now is the right time to have this conversation for the reasons listed above.. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve contributed to systemic racism. I need to work on this, the City of Edmonton as an organization needs to work on this. We need to work on this as a community because there are many of our neighbours, friends, and family members who have been negatively impacted by this system. I encourage you not to look at this conversation as a threat, but as an opportunity to build a more inclusive community where everyone feels safe and supported.

Please take some time to share your thoughts in the comments. I know this is a sensitive topic but I encourage you to share your thoughts in a respectful way. We will also be holding a Public Hearing from June 15th – June 17th. If you are interested, you can register to speak and you will have 5 minutes at the Public Hearing to share your perspective on the motion above with all of council.

 

Andrew Knack

 

34 Comments

  1. rebecca on June 11, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    i admittedly do not live in your ward, but i don’t think this strategy is sufficient and i think you should push harder for massive structural change in how the city budget is invested. simply stating “okay, how about we just don’t increase the police budget as much as we originally were going to increase it” or saying “it would be unfair to renege on something we promised” are inappropriate sufficient responses to people who are sharing with you that your decisions on council have a direct impact on whether they live or die when police interact with their loved ones. further, i see no issue with removing funds from police when as an institution they’re so grossly inept as to literally murder people “by accident” when their intention is expressly to serve and protect. an apology such as the one you offer initially in this post is empty unless you can show greater backbone in addressing the life and death concerns of the constituents you purport to represent.

    • Andrew Knack on June 14, 2020 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for the feedback on this Rebecca. I would be open to moving funding to other areas, but in order to do that, I want to see a clear plan of what we are investing in. It’s not that I don’t think we need to invest in other programs, but it should be thoughtful because as we see in the other comments, some people don’t think there should be any changes at all and being able to provide a clear plan with specific outcomes is necessary to advance those actions. I do appreciate there are some who would like an immediate reduction tomorrow, but if we take a bit of time to engage different organizations, experts, etc. to help inform what the right actions are, I think we will have a better plan that more people can understand and support. Thanks again for your comment on this.

      • Rita Pothoven on June 17, 2020 at 5:05 pm

        We need to also look at how much good comes from the service of the EPS. I would like to know how many calls they make and how many are completed safely and successfully. A lot of information and statistics need to be reviewed before making any decisions. We need our police. Even social workers want police to declare a call safe before the police can hand it over to them. Perhaps ask the other services we have to answer whether or not they want to deal with calls without the police presence.
        Any change will have to be a very slow process. As mentioned in your blog, it will take at least a generation for significant change to happen.
        I also believe very strongly that the people should decide via a referendum. Any decision of this magnitude that directly affect the citizens of our great city should be made by the citizens.
        The Edmonton Police are trained to de-escalate situations and those who use excessive force should be punished. But DO NOT penalize all of our good police because of some bad ones.

        • Nancy L on June 17, 2020 at 7:43 pm

          I agree on the referendum, they are allowing a very small percentage of the population to overshadow what most Edmontonians want!

          I have friends who are social workers and are terrified this will come into play, they are afraid for their own safety.

          One individual who spoke today said he is trained in de-escalation yet couldn’t listen to a individual with a differing view speak without making gestures to the camera and laughing. He then went on to make rude comments about her in his 5 minutes, city council watched and did nothing. I was shocked! They promote change and equal treatment, Andrew even spoke in his blog how he didn’t stand up in the past but was going to now. He sat and did nothing.

  2. Doug on June 12, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Andrew

    I think it is critically important you look up the definition of “virtue signalling” because sadly you own the t shirt!!!! Your actual knowledge of the Police Service is minimal at best, you have zero idea of what a “use of force continuum” looks like. Your closet encounter with danger is driving down the pot hole ravaged streets that we can never get fixed because we are distracted by issues like this. This morning I woke in Edmonton, Alberta, not Minnesota or New York or thankfully Seattle. Our Police Service is one of the most inclusive and well trained and wait for it, over sighted in the free world. If there are issues of misconduct there are systems in place to deal with them and you have yet to mention one single incident to which you feel drives your new found awakening. I read a comment above that the police literally “murder” people by accident, is this the thinking of your core support group??? I strongly suggest you explore exactly what the police do, what partnerships they have, who they are required to keep safe daily while those folks such as mental health and social workers try to solve problems before you and your buddy bring the next ill informed, ill prepared and ill advised motion to Council.

    • Frank on June 13, 2020 at 10:19 am

      Good points to keep in full view

    • Andrew Knack on June 14, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Thank you for the message Doug. While I have been out with EPS at different times, engaged with their partners, and researched the work they do, there is always an opportunity to learn more and I will continue to do that. I believe much of what is listed in 1 a, b, and c will help provide a more complete understanding as you have suggested. I also completely agree about the training our officers receive, I’ve generally been very impressed every time I’ve engaged with a member of our police service or seen them out in the community. I wouldn’t say I’ve had a recent ‘awakening’ but rather a renewed desire to complete the same time of due diligence we perform on every other department during our budget deliberations. I believe it’s important to regularly review how things are being done in every area and look to see if there are improvements that can be made. The issue is that I haven’t performed that same level of scrutiny on this budget and I think that is something I should be doing. If we ask for that from every other department, why should policing be any different?

      • Nancy on June 14, 2020 at 8:20 pm

        I would like to know what other departments other than the police service have been called before city council recently and a motion has been presented to slash their future budget?

        • Andrew Knack on June 20, 2020 at 3:57 pm

          Thank you for the message. Each year in December council will review previously approved budgets for every single department to determine if additional changes should be made. While approving a multi-year budget is meant to provide more stability, we still believe it’s important to reevaluate those budgets because things can change significantly from year to year. Thanks again for the message.

  3. Hanna on June 12, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Andrew, thank you for responding and referencing some of your past work.

    I would encourage you to keep up opening your mind and ask yourself about the real demand for policing if 30% of our police calls are for social help. Would diverting 30% of their funding leave us at a net-zero type situation? Would it help out vulnerable populations? Perhaps this in itself isn’t reasonable, but I encourage you to explore outside the box.

    In addition, as a ward resident, I encourage you to get to know your residents. There are a large amount of Native residents here and they face more racism historically than any other Canadians. They have it rough in terms of generational trauma and internalized racism. As a politician, you and I both know you do a lot of things for show. I urge you to truly try to understand, get involved with, and appreciate our Native residents and their culture.

    Finally, I’d like to ask for your opinions around mandatory body cams and alongside it, a bill making the act of turning off a body cam a crime of tampering with justice. Body cams will help keep our force accountable (We have all seen the excessive force videos circulating) and a hand-in-hand Bill could help avoid body cam tampering problems seen in the US. I think this would be a really positive step for Edmonton.

    Thank you for listening. Keep listening. Act. Push for justice.

  4. Larry on June 12, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    I’ll keep my response short and to the point after reading your blog.

    If the rep in my ward chooses to divest in our police services I will be divesting in voting for them next election.

    • Nathan on June 12, 2020 at 6:54 pm

      I’ll keep my response short and to the point after reading your blog.

      If the rep in my ward chooses NOT to divest in our police services I will be divesting in voting for them next election.

      • Kris on June 15, 2020 at 7:57 pm

        I completely agree and add I will also choose to heavily campaign against them.

        • Kris on June 15, 2020 at 8:00 pm

          Sorry that comment replied to the wrong person. Joys of using a small phone. But it won’t let me delete it. I disagree with this comment completely

    • Andrew Knack on June 14, 2020 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you for the message Larry. I know you wanted to keep the message short but would you mind expanding on your thoughts? What would be some of your particular concerns? Even with those concerns, are there any areas for improvement that you might identify? What level of scrutiny should go in analyzing the police budget? Should it be more, less, or the same as what we do for other departments? Any additional information you can share would be appreciated. Thanks again for your feedback on this.

  5. Aaron on June 12, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Doug is obviously unable to recognize his own privilege, and is actually unaffected by this issue — other than “having an opinion”. While reading his comment I was truly waiting to hear “we don’t have racism here” come out. Doug is more concerned about “pot hole ravaged streets” than racism and the experiences of BIPOC, which is only magnifying his white privilege.

    This country is founded on the theft of land from Indigenous peoples and both our RCMP and police services disproportionally affect exactly those people. The increase in funding to police doesn’t lessen the amount of force that police use, even body cams and awareness training, all these things don’t actually help, if you follow the data. The more police you have on the ground, the more police brutality you have. You only have to be a part of a large organization to understand that the larger a team gets, the harder it is to communicate, manage, train, regulate, etc. Police are no different, and excessive aggression and use of force has become normalized in our societies — just not against white people.

    Follow the data: the less money people have and the less access they have to resources, the more likely they are to either be involved in crime, or targeted by police regardless. Right now our “increase the police” attitude seems more to protect the wealthy from the poor, not actually deal with the problem. Put the funding to better use and help those who have less, taxes be damned.

  6. Nancy on June 13, 2020 at 8:50 am

    This is a knee-jerk reaction to a racially energized climate based on recent global events. Our police force is not an American police force, please remember this. I watched the council meeting in full and listened to the police chief describe the many checks/balances in place and the programs they have implemented to diversify the police force and increase positive community presence. I feel he wants to make a change and is putting that effort in, removing the police budget will tie his hands and the first to go will be the very programs trying to combat the problems you feel exist. I listened to him describe the most diverse police force class they had ever hired with many females, nationalities and highly educated people most with degrees including some in social work. If the cuts are made unfortunately these will be the first group of officers to lose their jobs. In essence by making the cuts you will be taking a step backwards.

    I do not support your motion to defund police and don’t believe the plan you have will make efforts towards solving homelessness or the other social issues you describe. Having friends in EMS and social work, both have reiterated to me the need for police in order for them to do their jobs safely. By increasing the number of social workers you now increase the need for police as they have to accompany many of them due to safety issues,. I don’t think you would want to go into a volatile situation without some support as these situations can turn to violence very easily. So why ask others to do that? The police chief mentioned to council that this could involve the loss of up to 500 police officers from the streets of Edmonton (out of 1720 sworn members) or 1/3 of the police force. If they are going to support the increased number of social workers you want on the streets but have 500 less members, who is left to keep our communities safe and combat crime?

    After reading that you originally wanted to cut the police budget in 2018, I can see why you are pushing this now. It gives you the perfect political climate to push a previous agenda you were outvoted on in city council. I truly hope there are more objective people than you sitting on council who will see this for what it is and not defund police.

    • Hanna on June 13, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      For what reason would diverse groups and educated officers be the first to go? Defunding the police would likely means hiring reduction, not straight up layoffs, as well as cutting fluffy expenses like two helicopters. There will not be a cut of 1/3 of officers- you and I both know that would never happen. Don’t fear-monger defunding, as it is not useful to either side of this debate.

      • Nancy on June 13, 2020 at 9:34 pm

        In a unionized environment the least seniority is first to go, they focused on more diversity in the past few classes and with the least seniority they would be the first group let go.

      • J on June 15, 2020 at 9:22 pm

        You are completely wrong. It would mean lay-off.ls. And those helicopters help made policing safer for the citizens of the city. They reduce the need for high speed police chases. A call to reduce them seems to me to be a call to let people get away with crime. Maybe this is the intention of the call to reduce funding. Helicopters don’t promote violence but they do stop crime. I guess we want to allow crime? Seems backwards.

    • Andrew Knack on June 14, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you for the feedback Nancy. For clarity, the motion as worded would simply freeze the 2021 police budget at the 2020 level. There have certainly been requests from others to defund the police and reduce their overall budget, but that is not what is in the motion. When the Chief mentioned a loss of up to 500 jobs, that would have been the scenario if we removed $75 million from their current budget as it would both take away the previous increases over the last two years and an additional $35 million or so.

      For the 2018 motion that you reference, I did not put forward a motion to cut the police budget, what I did was put forward a motion to provide EPS with a $35 million increase over 4 years instead of an $87 million increase. The reasons for that change are outlined in the post but one additional comment I would add is that during the budget deliberations, we asked almost every other branch, except fire, to do more with the same or less. During the budget debates, we carefully scrutinized almost every area to ensure that taxes would not go up more than needed. I put forward a motion that reduced spending by $65 million over four years in almost every area except emergency services. I felt that was necessary because of the property tax pressures that people have been under.

      A question I do have is if you would prefer that council approve any increase asked for by EPS or if there should be an expectation that we apply the same due diligence as our other departments? I believe there are some would prefer that council never touch the policing budget and only make changes in other areas. If that is the preferred approach, as long as we are all prepared for the tax increases that will be needed to fund the budget increase since policing regularly makes up the largest part of our tax increase each year.

      My worry is that similar to the provincial health care system, I’m worried about our ability to fund other programs and services. For example, I think there is a desire to have a 0% tax increase in 2021 (and likely even decrease). Therefore if nothing were to change, cuts of approximately $16.3 million would have to be made to other areas. As mentioned above, over the years we have been making a lot of cuts, including the cuts to provide the $65 million reduction in 2018, so there will be fewer and fewer ‘frivolous’ items to cut. That means we would have to start cutting core services to offset the yearly increase required under the funding formula. I’m not sure that is financially sustainable in the long term which is why I wanted to have the conversation in 2018.

      Any additional feedback you can provide on this would be appreciated. In the end, I think it’s safe to say we all way the same thing, keeping our communities safe and crime-free. The question for me is whether the status quo is doing that for us? Thanks again for the feedback.

      • Nancy L on June 14, 2020 at 8:18 pm

        I am by no means saying that we should hand out blank checks to the police service in Edmonton, I’m not sure where you would of found that in what I originally wrote. If they were promised the $75 million over 4 years to do their job and keep our communities safe than I believe they are entitled to the funds. Have any other departments had their budget funds for planned years removed due to systemic racism as this was the catalylst for the issue of the motion and police defunding?

        From what I can gather from your response, this issue is not about racism but rather the budget and trying to cut costs.

        • Nancy on June 14, 2020 at 9:34 pm

          My other question would be why fire was not asked the same as every other department as you have indicated above. They are an front line response just the same as police.

  7. Dave on June 13, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Having lived in your ward in Edmonton since 2013 I am impressed by the performance of the Edmonton Police Service. Regardless of what is going on in the United States, issues of racial strife between EPS and minorities are rarely news here and I feel they are to be commended for their efforts in this regard. Police have had to take on additional responsibilities in the past few years in dealing with such things as internet child pornography, internet fraud and international terrorism. Organized Crime is getting increasingly sophisticated. All these require additional personnel. If some current responsibilities can be shifted to other agencies that would be great, but I believe this would be very difficult. I certainly don’t want to see EPS understaffed, underfunded and unable to deal with any future emergency that may arise. I think we should pay attention the the morale of the EPS members and how proposals to defund their Service may affect their thinking. The last thing I want to see is a police service that is not motivated and not proactive in doing their job.

    • Andrew Knack on June 14, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks for that feedback Dave. You are right that any changes have to be done thoughtfully. I believe the motion helps remove some of the emotion from the conversation and would allow us to have the expert information needed to determine what the right next steps are. I want to make sure our officers can focus on those very serious things you have identified and yet, we know that 92.7% of all calls for service are Priority 4 and 5 which are calls where there is no immediate danger (ex: a break and enter that occurred overnight). While still important, it would be worth determining if we can handle those in a different way. I’ve heard the police chief suggest the same thing at an event we organized on February 1st and I’d like to find out if we can provide that support. Thanks again for the feedback Dave, I really appreciate it.

  8. Josie on June 14, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    I look forward to seeing what actions the City Council will take to move forward on this issue. My question though is, have you consulted organizations actively involved with fighting racism? If so, I would be very interested in hearing what you’ve learned and what suggestions they’ve provided. If you haven’t consulted such groups, why not? You mentioned that you want clearer plans for how funding will be distributed – I imagine the many organizations that were listed in the letters you received would have valuable insight and ideas. Please don’t neglect to include them as you address this important issue. And please don’t let the voices of BIPOC to be drowned out by those who insist that systemic racism isn’t an issue here.

    • Andrew Knack on June 20, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you for the message Josie. We have been engaging groups about this including setting up an anti-racism advisory council. But other organizations have been working on this including End Poverty Edmonton. We’ve also heard from a number of organizations during the Public Hearing which have offered additional feedback on this topic. Thanks again for the message.

  9. Kris on June 15, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    I believe you have some good points. Investing in support agencies will have nothing but positive results. It will, in time, reduce the need for police in some situations. Invest in them at the expense of Rogers Place or the ridiculous LRT situations, not police. I do also believe that making radical changes to appease special interest groups fueled by media is never a good idea. Should we not research the impact using calm, unbiased judgement? Institutional racism is a huge systemic problem. Should we defund city council? Should we defund social services? Should we eliminate our government. All of these are systems and all have racism build into them. All need to be re-examined. And fixed. Police in Edmonton are highly trained. The video of gorge Floyd was horrifying. Obviously charges were needed. It was murder. But this does not mean that every arrest is wrong. It does not mean that every video from months ago showing aggression is wrong. Police, unfortunately, are faced with aggression all day and night. Spit on, kicked, hunted and hated for wearing a uniform (stereotyping at its finest). I went on a ride along. All night people gave us the finger for absolutely no reason. Hate displayed constantly and yet those officers continue to protect us. This is a dangerous city. If you disagree ask yourself Mr. Knack if you would feel comfortable walking the streets downtown at 2 in the morning alone? Would you hang out on stony plain road at 3 am? Go on a ride along and see for self what happens in the city you run. Who do you want to call when a known pedophile is lurking at the park where your family is playing? Or a drug deal goes bad and there’s shots fired (by illegal guns). Or your neighbor is being assaulted. These things happen all the time in Edmonton. I would and gave called police (but the wait time will already be too long to help in some of those cases). Others may call another agency, one you gave police money to, but they will not come. Not until police come and secure the scene (look into it, if happens already, it’s called staging). I agree funding can’t continue to grow at the level it is. So fund them now and then in the next budgets maintain that funding and don’t increase it. But don’t defund it. Those funds are desperately needed. Have you been to the Zebra Centre? It is a world class facility with highly trained officers who specialize in interviewing children. Children who have been raped, abused and neglected. Go there and meet those children and see the other side of policing that isn’t publicized. The fact that you are even considering these requests is disgraceful.

    • Andrew Knack on June 20, 2020 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you for your message Kris. I think you are right that we have to make rational decisions based on good information. The motion does ask for that research to occur to help inform any future decision. You are also correct that this isn’t only a policing issue, we have to work throughout the City of Edmonton as an organization.

      To some of your other questions, I have been to the Zebra Centre and they do incredible work. We are fortunate to have them operating in our city and part of the work we need to do is to work to prevent those terrible situations happening in the first place. The fact that there are children who are going through horrific experiences is one reason I want to complete the research in the motion to determine the best way to help prevent that occurring in the first place. Thanks again for your feedback on this.

  10. A concerned citizen on June 16, 2020 at 6:27 am

    Just to prove that this city council jumps on whatever bandwagon is popular and doesn’t stand for anything I will quote what Iverson said at Constable Daniel Woodall’a funeral. To Claire he said, “we’ve adopted you as family because that’s what Edmonton is all about”. I guess he should have added “until there’s a serious incident in the USA and unfounded backlash from it in Edmonton.” June was the month Dan died investigating a hate crime and now, on the 5 year anniversary our council does this. It’s disgusting. Iverson also said “our police go about there work every day, often taken for granted, and yet these men and women are some of our finest”. I guess in 5 years the finest have turned to murdering monsters. The fact that you are using hurt people and the call for justice to push forward your budget agenda is sad and won’t be forgotten come election. I want someone with morals and compassion to represent me.

    • Andrew Knack on June 20, 2020 at 4:06 pm

      Thank you for your feedback. I don’t believe our police officers are murdering monsters. One of the goals of the blog is for us to ask ourselves what additional actions should we be taking as a community to improve safety? Are we doing everything perfectly or is there room for improvement? I tend to believe we have room for improvement and I think there is value in gathering research to help inform the actions we should be taking as a community to improve safety in our city. Thanks again for the feedback.

  11. Beau on June 21, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    I’m very late weighing in, but I hope that isn’t an issue.

    To start I would like to mention that the use of body cams has been studied in relation to how they shape police interactions, and the evidence suggests the change is negligible (or statistically irrelevant as researchers love to say). In addition who is to say police officers won’t turn them off, or withhold footage from outside organizations? Might as outfit all the cars in the entire city. At least then all involved parties would have access to information gathered.
    For research regarding body cams:
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12412

    I think an interesting alternative to policing as we know it would be to look to Kwanlin Dun’s approach. They are referred to as community safety officers, and they’re based in Whitehorse. They’ve received training in conflict resolution and intergenerational trauma/mental health issues. And they do all their work unarmed.
    Some perspective on their work:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/kwanlin-dun-safety-officer-program-1.4416352

    Honestly the history of police violence is a long one, and has also existed within the RCMP since its inception. Just because some of us are only hearing about it now doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a problem for decades. The police haven’t been protecting and serving, so much as they’ve been enforcing property interests, and extracting income from disenfranchised and impoverished communities. I’m sure many of us are also aware of the statistics of spousal abuse within police forces. If I have anything to say about it I will not consent to be subjected to the whims of this organization which has such paltry oversight and seems to revel in it’s own power due to lack of accountability.

  12. Daya on June 25, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    Andrew,

    Thank you for inviting me to read your blog. I am one of the many who signed and submitted the electronic letter supporting the redirection of police funds. I appreciate your thorough communication on this issue and concrete steps to investigate, evaluate, and address these issues.

  13. Jeff on July 1, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Andrew,
    I appreciate your transparency. I think it is completely reasonable to have a short term budget freeze and a review if the EPS can do better. Asking if they can do better is not to say they have not done good work. Context changes and evidence accumulates over time. It is reasonable to consider the evidence and context and make a thoughtful decision.
    I have no idea what it is like to be marginalized so I am pleased that you and council seem to be actively soliciting opinions from the marginalized groups. Hopefully this level of engagement is authentic and meaningful.

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