Chief promising change and action, not 'listening campaign,' for racialized groups
EDMONTON -- Four months after the death of George Floyd and three months after a series of public meetings examining policing in Edmonton, the chief is promising action for racialized and underserved populations.
Chief Dale McFee revealed on Monday a plan to improve Edmonton Police Service’s relationship with the city’s Black, Indigenous, and people of colour communities.
The service is promising to create safe spaces for conversation with these groups, whose feedback will guide change.
“I understand the skepticism some might bring to a statement like that. What makes this different from previous efforts is that this is not a listening campaign,” McFee told media.
“We’re focusing on what three or four things can we action tomorrow that can change? Because I can make a decision and action something tomorrow.”
It is also creating a community advisory council made up of people experiencing marginalization and discrimination, plus other community partners. The “Chief’s Community Council” will be tasked with collaborative problem solving.
Applications to sit on the committee open in January.
All action taken by EPS will be documented on a site, EPSInput.ca.
Floyd’s death beneath the knee of an officer in Minneapolis ignited protests over racism and police brutality around the world, and conversations about how to improve law enforcement.
Weeks after thousands marched to Alberta’s legislature in Edmonton, EPS held its own public hearings.
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However, McFee said Monday that Floyd’s death only expedited work that had already started.
“I don’t think any of this was actually on the foot of George Floyd. I think George Floyd was the catalyst for change across the world – but when we came here, part of the conditions that I took the job, or part of my mandate, was to actually drive this kind of change from our commission.”
He reiterated an earlier position that change within police services won’t go as far as collaborative change across social services.
In July, Edmonton councillors voted to redirect $11 million from the 2021-22 policing budget to community programs and a well-being taskforce.
McFee said he had hoped the decision would serve as an example, inspiring other agencies now is the time to change the social issues are addressed.
“Driving this change in policing alone isn’t going to change anything. This is a community issue,” McFee commented. “This is about where I think finally the roads are all coming together and maybe there’s an appetite to say we need to invest in something different.”
It was the first time the chief had spoken publicly since Alberta’s new justice minister made a show of support for body-worn cameras in the province. In response, McFee said his position – that vehicle-mounted cameras provided the broader perspective and were the better investment – had not changed.
“If he wants to foot the bill, we’ll use body cameras.”