Alberta justice minister asks Edmonton, Calgary mayors not to defund the police

EDMONTON — Alberta’s minister of justice and solicitor general asked mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi not to defund Edmonton and Calgary police.

Kaycee Madu, the MLA for Edmonton-South West, sent a letter to the mayors where he argued the concept of defunding the police is misguided and would not benefit racialized members of the community.

“An adequately funded police service is essential to ensuring these individuals are protected and provided assistance, such as when police are called for help or to investigate,” Madu wrote. “So in contrast with what some are claiming, reduced funding poses risks — not benefits — to those groups.”

 

Council began to debate the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) budget in June after the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police in the United States sparked protests in Edmonton and across the world where activists called for racial equality and police defunding.

A council motion asked administration to redirect $11 million from the EPS budget over 2021-22 to agency partners and a new process where officers, or a different uniform, attend low-risk calls without weapons.

Council also asked police and the Edmonton Public School Board to suspend and review the School Resource Officers (SRO) program, and last Friday, Edmonton Public Schools announced there would be no police officers in their hallways during the 2020-21 schoolyear.

The EPS budget, Edmonton’s largest expense, is expected to grow to $388 million next year.

Black Lives Matter Edmonton previously asked council to disapprove an increase to the police budget and instead redirect $75 million to affordable housing, mental health initiatives, free public transit and community organizations that support marginalized Edmontonians.

In his letter to Iveson, Madu said the priority should be police reform, not defund.

Ward 1 Coun. Andrew Knack responded to Madu’s letter on Twitter and asked if the Alberta government planned to return the $5 million he says it removed from the EPS budget.

 

Iveson is expected to comment on Madu’s letter during a news conference at 12:15 p.m.

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