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

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 323 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)
‘We’re in a danger zone,’ says Hinshaw

The province’s top doctor says “we’re in a danger zone” when it… Continue reading

Mayor Tara Veer pleads with the premier Tuesday to review the decision to move to a consolidated EMS dispatch system, which will be moved to three centres across the province. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
‘Issue of life and death’: mayors plead with government to halt consolidated EMS dispatch

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer calls on premier to overturn consolidated EMS dispatch decision

A $2.3-billion expansion of Alberta’s natural gas transportation system has been approved. “This should provide significant benefits — and we need every little bit of economic boost we can get,” says Reg Warkentin, policy adviser for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Flickr photo)
Red Deer-area to benefit from $2.3 billion gas pipeline expansion project

Project will add 344 km of new pipeline between RMH and Grande Prairie

Dustin Snider was elected the new board president for Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Earl’s Restaurant manager re-elected Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president

Dustin Snider has been re-elected president of the Red Deer & Distict… Continue reading

Red Deer singer Kayla Williams hopes listeners fed up with the pandemic are comforted by her new song, Stealing from My Youth, which is digitally available for streaming on Friday. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer singer summarizes universal pandemic feelings in a new single

Kayla Williams releases ‘Stealing From My Youth’ on Friday

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaps over a challenge by PSG's Presnel Kimpembe during the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Hamilton Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis, right, hugs captain Kyle Bekker following their victory in the Canadian Premier League soccer final against the Calgary Cavalry in Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Under Smyrniotis, Forge FC has been the class of the Canadian Premier League. The two-time champions from Hamilton look to mark their internationally this week as they open CONCACAF League play in El Salvador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Players' sticks are shown during a World Hockey Championships game in Moscow, Russia on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A senior hockey team in a small city in southern Manitoba has changed its name following a push against the use of Indigenous names and caricatures as mascots. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Jason Kokrak tees off during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in North Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

The Los Angeles Dodgers line up during during the national anthem and a fly over before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Keegan Messing performs in the Gala at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Most Read