Edmonton chief concerned about defunding police service to deal with racism

Edmonton chief concerned about defunding police service to deal with racism

Edmonton chief concerned about defunding police service to deal with racism

EDMONTON — The police chief in Alberta’s capital says there’s racism in Canadian policing, but he worries that any reduction in budgets could lead to a loss of officers and programs brought in to address diversity.

Protests related to the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died under the knee of a white police officer, have called for the defunding of police departments across North America.

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said Floyd’s death was fundamentally wrong and that the officer needs to be held accountable.

“That, by any stretch of the imagination, can’t be defended, can’t be justified, and we all need to say that doesn’t happen and can’t happen,” he said on a Zoom call Thursday.

While McFee said he believes policing in Canada is ahead of the United States, it’s not perfect.

“Systemic racism exists … in every community. I think we need to be open and honest about that,” he said. “It’s in health outcomes. It’s in child apprehension outcomes.

“But it doesn’t mean it’s rampant.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a media interview this week that she was struggling with the definition of systemic racism within the national police force.

Alberta deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said Monday that Canada is different than the United States and he didn’t think racism is systemic in Canadian policing.

He did say that racism is “prevalent” in all aspects of society, including in police services.

McFee said he didn’t want to comment on the RCMP, but noted he has known Zablocki for a long time and he has a proven track record in policing.

Groups such as Black Lives Matter are calling for policing money to be redirected to services such as affordable housing, mental-health programs and community-led organizations.

McFee said he knows people are frustrated and angry, but he suggested it’s time to take the emotion out of the situation.

“As a police chief, I am fully committed to change,” he said, but added it needs to be the right change.

“If you defund police, based on collective agreements, you … lose all your new hires and you lose all of those programs,” he said.

“Then you become an enforcement agency again, which makes zero sense.”

McFee said Edmonton Police Service programs dealing with community safety and well-being would be cut, because funding is necessary for front-line policing.

“You have to have a number of people to go to the calls, and you have to solve a homicide, and you have to solve a terrorism incident and you have to solve an organized crime incident, and you have to solve all violence and major property crimes,” he said. “So you have a majority of your police service that is still going to have to go to calls.”

McFee said the second cut would be officers who were hired in the last three to five years because their contracts have a last-in, first-out provision.

“We’ve hired diversity in an extremely aggressive manner,” he said, listing people from various backgrounds as well as officers with degrees in social work and communications.

Statistics provided by the Edmonton Police Service from 2015 to 2019 show between 42 and 57 per cent of new hires annually came from under-represented backgrounds, including women and visible minorities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whether the Town of Ponoka gets enough ‘bang for its buck’ under its Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) membership was discussed during town council March 26.
File photo
Town of Ponoka appoints Sandra Lund as CAO

Ponoka town council voted unanimously at its regular meeting on Jan.12 to… Continue reading

Kelowna RCMP Stock Image.
Ponoka RCMP respond to several B&E’s

Calls include complaint of a spray painted garage

Black Press file photo
Maskwacis male charged with 2nd degree murder

18-year-old Kaydence Clark Roasting of Ermineskin Cree Nation was arrested at his residence.

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday that11 more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,447. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

The Mountain Cree Traditional Band headquarters in Mirror, Alta. has been the target of theft and vandalism. (Photo submitted)
Mountain Cree Traditional Band’s headquarters broken into five times

AWNTB says not enough been done to deter crime in Mirror, Alta.

Indigenous people gather for a ceremony for Cindy Gladue held at the courthouse in Edmonton, Alta, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Bradley Barton, a 52-year-old long-haul truck driver from Ontario on trial for manslaughter, is accused of killing Gladue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
People stand in support of mother as new trial gets underway in death of Cindy Gladue

Bradley Barton, a long-haul truck driver from Ontario, will now be tried for manslaughter in the 2011 death

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Facebook/ The Open Door 24/7 Integrated Response Hub- Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin residents show support for 24/7 Integrated Response Hub

Wetaskiwin residents and City Council members showed support for Hub with positive signs.

Most Read