Edmonton police association slams community task force report as 'insulting and demeaning'

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The head of Edmonton’s police union slammed a report published by a city task force focused on evaluating community safety and providing anti-racist actions.

Michael Elliott, president of the Edmonton Police Association (EPA), called the report “insulting and demeaning to every police officer who dedicates themselves to serve the city of Edmonton.”

“The task force’s mandate was to create actionable recommendations for the city council regarding the future of community safety and wellbeing that are anti-racist,” said Elliott. “Yet they focused 99 per cent on the police and the police budget, and not any other city budget.”

The city’s Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force, made up of community members, EPS members, city officials and a member of the police commission, released a report last week that included 14 recommendations revolving around police reform in the city.

The task force recommended a freeze on funding for the department, expanding the use of crisis diversion, creating an integrated call and dispatch system and increasing transparency around the public complaint process, among other changes.

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“Out-of-date beliefs take root in organizations and systems, influencing the way things are done. This gets baked in. Over time, it becomes what’s considered ‘normal’, and people in these organizations and systems act accordingly,” read the report.

Council has approved to move forward with 13 of the recommendations but held off on outright accepting a funding freeze as a policy review needs to first be completed.

Elliott said he is welcome to improving the police department, but questioned how that can be done if the city freezes the EPS budget as recommended. The report estimates a funding freeze would see about $260 million over the next five years be redirected to expanding 24/7 supports for the community. He also said EPS has already moved forward on some of the recommendations, including improving training and creating off-ramp programs.

“Recommendation number one of the task force is to move to an independent integrated call system. We’re currently moving in that direction as it involves all partners with 24/7 access to frontline and initial triage,” said Elliott. “However, if the task force want to freeze police funding, where do they find the money to make such a change?”

Elliott said his letter has raised emotions, perspectives and dialogue around the conversation.

Task force member calls response a distraction

Marni Panas, a member of the task force, said the EPA’s response shows why marginalized individuals often don’t participate in these community conversations.

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“We did expect backlash, I mean, we’re going into uncomfortable conversations and we need people to get into that discomfort and fit in with that,” said Panas. “Did I expect this type of response that feels a bit more personal? Absolutely not.”

Panas noted the task force’s report speaks to issues within public structures and institutions, not issues with individual officers.

Elliott said there were two members of the task force who should have recused themselves as they had outstanding complaints against the EPS. Panas, one of those members, said the complaints were public knowledge at the time they were selected to sit on the committee.

Panas said the response to the report attacks the credibility of the task force’s members and is a distraction from the issues raised by the committee.

“I feel less safe in the city of Edmonton today because I participated on this task force, as a result of that response,” said Panas.

— With files from Dustin Cook

dshort@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dylanshort_

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