City Council listens to “unprecedented” public input on shape of policing in Edmonton

In the face of “unprecedented”  input from people in Edmonton, a public hearing on policing goes into Day 3 today and will be extended to Day 4 on Monday, June 22—and, then, possibly, to one more day after that.

City Councillors decided unanimously yesterday to extend the deadline for people to submit requests to speak at the hearing. The new deadline was noon today, Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

“As the order of government that does the most listening, as imperfect as we are, we ought not to stray from that leadership position on a set of issues as fundamental as this to justice in our community,” said Mayor Don Iveson on Tuesday. 

Iveson said public input on the issue of policing has been “unprecedented.” 

Iveson made his comments as a physically distanced City Council heard from and asked questions of its fourth citizen panel in two days. In total, more than 140 people have registered to speak, sharing a variety of perspectives on public safety and policing.

In front of the 13-person City Council is a motion that will be debated by elected politicians after the hearing wraps up.

Read the entire motion.

A motion is a proposal to take certain kinds of action. Motions can be changed. A motion needs 7 out of 13 votes for it to stop being just a proposal and start being the official plan.

Motion, part 1

In this case, the motion, if passed, would mean that “an analysis on how many calls for service are driven by mental health, addictions, homelessness or other social and public health factors, and analysis for how many calls could be better responded to by partners through the scale up of existing programs like REACH’s 24/7 Crisis Diversion program, or new programs…” would be provided to Council.

Part 2

As well, City Administration would be directed to work with the City of Calgary and other cities with police services in Alberta to jointly analyze what drives higher crime and disorder and the demand for “reactive community services, including policing.”

Part 3

City Council would also get a report on what other cities, including Minneapolis, Minnesota, are doing when they talk about defunding police. And what demonstrated or proposed change models exist, including a proposal in the End Poverty Edmonton Roadmap and the Plan to End Homelessness. 

If, then…

If the motion passes, City Council would then debate later this year whether it’s a good idea or not to freeze the 2020 Edmonton Police Service budget at the 2020 level ($372.5 million). 

That could result in more than $16 million going instead to community initiatives, including mental health and addictions programs.

Use of force

The motion, if it passes,  would also produce a report on “options to better hold Transit Peace Officers accountable for excessive use of force, including an arm’s length oversight mechanism, and advice on further submissions to Alberta’s Solicitor General on the Police Act.”

The motion was introduced by Councillor Andrew Knack and Councillor Aaron Paquette. 

All public hearings are live streamed. Today’s hearing starts at 9:30 am.

A physically distanced Edmonton City Council participates in a remote public hearing on policing, June 16, 2020. The hearing drew more than 140 registered speakers.

Editor’s note: Pic at top of post is Edmonton City Hall on June 16, 2020