When I heard the Provincial announcement, I treated that as political theatre on the part of the Minister in question and not something they were seriously considering. I am satisfied in that belief as nothing further has been said about it. The actual number of police officers involved in the two incidents mentioned are small compared to the size of the force which is not to say that we should ignore it but also not to conclude that there is a systemic problem. In terms of reform, I am going to accede to the Law Enforcement Review Board to address problems that arise. Tha may seem like a cop out (pun not intended) on my part but City Council doesn't control the Police; that oversight is with the Police Commission. The City's role is to approve (or not) their budget.
Because of the above I believe the police are under enormous pressure these days. I also believe much of the problem stems from a few “bad apples”. The vast majority of the force is made up of upstanding men and women and I have nothing but respect for them. I’m confident that the new Police Chief (and commission) will turn things around.
I feel that sensitivity training and common sense need to be instilled into all officers, especially those on the best/patrol. I also feel that for the provincial government to threaten to dissolve the service, is grandstanding at best and has no place in any discussions around police funding which is within the municipal government’s jurisdiction.
The Police Chief has written a comprehensive report to address those concerns and he along with the Police Commission will continue to monitor all issues.
There is a lot of work going on right now to address these concerns. The Chief is actively engaged in efforts to address these concerns. Again, council is not all powerful and change takes time. I am in favour of keeping the current chief accountable and working to make sure we are making progress.
Again, this becomes an issue of jurisdiction between what City Council can and cannot affect. I understand and empathize with frustrations about our police services, which have been ongoing for many years now. Lethbridge deserves the absolute highest level of professionalism and service from our law enforcement personnel and many feel we are not receiving the care we are due. That being said, the patrol officers are also not to blame for a broken system (they are definitely to blame if, as stated in your question, they are abusing power or breaking the law) and so we will need to address the policing system in Lethbridge. This is easier to achieve if we have more transparency and reporting from our Police Service, something I think previous councils have let slip to the detriment of our community over the past few decades.
I believe that there needs to be a change in the culture within the service. I think there needs to be some civilian oversight of the disciplinary process.
None of these issues have been resolved and to make a judgement statement about reforms or changes, would be improper and inappropriate.
I believe that we live in a highly charged and politically divided society. Social media can cause scenarios to go viral. Scenarios which have no positive contribution to society. Disposing of a bushel of apples for the sake of some rotten ones is never a good policy. As mentioned in the previous question, we need a proactive Police Commission, not a reactive one.
I am not a law-enforcement professional, nor have I ever been involved with a police commission or other oversight body. I do know that the police do have a very difficult job to carry out, often under the most extreme circumstances. We have all had personal experiences, or are aware of those by family members, co-workers, or acquaintance with various law enforcement agencies for any number of reasons. Those experiences can be very positive or negative but, more often than not, it seems the attitude of the officers comes into play more than any other factor. As we are also all aware, you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try. This is truly the case with law enforcement. Nobody will ever be 100% satisfied but we can certainly strive for improvement. This is where I believe adding some funding to help build a more positive and responsive organizational culture would be a wise investment. Just think how much more effective and efficient the police can be if they have the public working with them instead of harboring resentment because of a few bad apples. Otherwise, if we can’t turn this ship towards a better future, we may have to look at hiring the RCMP to do the policing instead. If personal experience is any guide, I cannot recall a single negative experience with the RCMP. I wish I could say the same about the municipal police I have interacted with in various cities across Canada. We need the police. Let us make sure they have the resources they need to give us the services we need.
There are several things which need to be done, both by Council and by Council representatives on the Police Commission. 1. Develop a new Lethbridge Police Commission bylaw which, among other things, has a mechanism for removing police commissioners for cause and which ensures that Council will review Police Commission policies, both to ensure that necessary policies exist and that the policies are being followed. 2. Ensure the Lethbridge Police Commission is following the Alberta Police Act by holding the Commission to its required commitment to bring forward an Annual Plan to Council, with concurrent budget information and an annual report of the year prior. 3. Ensure the Lethbridge Police Commission develops and follows a Strategic Plan. The Commission must lead the development of the plan with the involvement of LPS and the public. The Strategic Plan cannot be created by the LPS and then merely approved by the Commission. It has to be done in a thorough manner with a great deal of public consultation and conversation. These are just the beginning steps which have to be undertaken by the new Council. Throughout the process of rewriting the bylaw and of the Commission’s work on their Annual Plan and Strategic Plan, community conversation, discussions and debates will take place which will help guide future work, rebuild public support for LPS, hold all leadership accountable, and rebuilt the trust LPS members have in their leaders and institution.
The identified instances involved a small number of LPS Officers, and truly there were indiscretions (in my opinion). Police Officers are not flawless and indeed training and direction is required in all respects. Our new police Chief has only but gotten his feet wet, so to speak, he appears on the right track, and he appears to have the officers in line with his direction. Truly the Provincial Government has taken notice of the deficiencies of LPS. As a Councillor I am certainly concerned, however I am also wanting to be realistic and fair in reviewing how the LPS addresses the Provincial Government. As a Councillor, I would advocate for non-budgetary reduction of LPS and for the growth of our Police Service to the standard of Canada's national average. (Currently we have 15% fewer officers than other jurisdictions in Canada with few exceptions).
Sadly, you are correct the Lethbridge Police Service has been mentioned in new story's or on viral media regarding arrest issues of the Star Wars storm trooper promotion, and the unauthorized surveillance of our local MLA. I'm not sure there is a correlation of those items had an affect on the crime rate or police response times. Yes, the crime rate is always a concern. I believe that Chief Mehdizadeh and his policing Team are working on all policing concerns past and future. I do not believe the provincial government will dissolve the Lethbridge Police force, as the Lethbridge Police Commission and Chief Mehdizadeh are working hard to strengthen their strategic vision to address or resolve previous concerns. I believe with Councils support the service will be well positioned to deliver sustainable policing for the residents if Lethbridge.
An Action Plan has been submitted by the Lethbridge Police Services to the Provincial Government. I will commit to holding the Lethbridge Police Commission accountable and reporting back on that Action Plan. Lethbridge City Council does not manage police services in our city. That’s the role of the Police Commission. The Commission submits an operating budget request to Council, Council determines how much funding to provide the Lethbridge Police Commission, and the Commission allocates dollars based on the Service’s need. I would also like to see a Police Commission built around a skills matrix with input from members of police services, as well as training for new Commission members. Other boards in our community do this, we need to ensure we’re doing it with our Police Commission as well. Further to that, I would support regular meetings with members of City Council, the Police Commission, and members of the Lethbridge Police Association so Council can learn directly from officers about challenges going on in our community. I firmly believe in opening lines of communication.
There are so many principled men & women with the LPS, but there seems to be a small endemic circle of toxic behaviour. This needs to be rooted out, and I believe that the Chief is committed to this. We need to maintain a vociferous and active Police Commission, and encourage a culture at the LPS service that reports breaches like this. These types of statistics are always alarming, and our high crime severity index rating is based primarily on property, not violent, crime (and it is dropping!). It is also important to keep in perspective that the crime severity index statistics are misleading, as they were sampled from communities with municipal police forces, not ones that have contracted the RCMP as their constabulary. If you took this into consideration, we wouldn't rank as poorly. We need transparency and accountability, and to support a culture within the LPS that discourages protectionism.
I believe my previous response partially addresses this issue. In addition to that I would advocate for cultural sensitivity training, revised performance reviews, and internal cultural reform.