Article content continued
Calgary police have also committed to collecting race-based data following criticism this past summer, as well as to reviewing the School Resource Officer program.
Neufeld said police must continue a dialogue with groups such as Black Lives Matter to understand their concerns — something he admitted hadn’t been taking place before this summer, since he became chief in mid-2019. He said the biggest thing missing in the force’s anti-racism work is meaningful “connections” and “relationships” with the community.
“It’s an inflection point and it’s an opportunity,” he said.
“But it’s hard. You have some people that say, ‘Well, we’re not out to abolish the police, we just want to defund the police,’ and then you go down to the protest and the people right in the front are holding up a sign saying ‘abolish the police.’ ”
Police to circle back on reallocation
Neufeld said he is not a supporter of the concept of defunding the police, declaring it’s “not a safe way to go” and wouldn’t be “smart” from a public safety perspective.
But he said he’s in favour of “redefining the police” — including a discussion on the types of calls CPS may not be best suited to attend — and potentially reallocating some of the force’s $400-million budget toward community initiatives. Neufeld said both officers and members of the public have indicated that CPS members aren’t ideal first responders for calls relating to mental health, for instance.
“We’re not necessarily doing a great job when we go to some of these calls after hours. We’re not able to bring what people need and then people aren’t getting connected to the services, necessarily, that they really need, once the businesses open up again in the morning,” he said.
“My hope with this is that we’re going to be able to divert some of that demand over to the people that can actually provide more of a long-term solution.”
In November, city council considered reducing the police budget to address gaps in crisis and outreach services, as Calgary police suggested shifting $8 million to those initiatives in 2021. Council instead opted to pull $8 million from city reserves, stopping short of slashing funds designated for police.
That took Neufeld by surprise. But he said he doesn’t feel council “took the bat out of our hands.”
The chief said CPS will propose new ideas at the next Calgary police commission meeting in late January on how to invest funds that “complement” council’s allocation to the community safety investment framework.