EPS hiring up to 15 social workers to respond to mental health, addictions calls
EDMONTON -- A day after addressing calls to defund the police, Edmonton's police chief says his force is in the process of hiring its own social workers to accompany officers on calls.
Chief Dale McFee took part in a Facebook Live question and answer session with the media and public on Friday.
McFee touched on many of the topics he spoke about in a presentation to city council a day earlier, including the idea of replacing officers with social workers.
The movement to "defund" police forces follows the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes, even after he became unresponsive.
McFee said while he supports greater integration with community-led resources, there's a safety risk of having fewer officers on the streets.
"It's not about transferring from one to the other, it's about putting them together," the police chief said. "If you go to one model and don't blend them, you don't get the success that you need to get."
Edmonton Police Services already has a plan to hire an additional 12-15 social workers by the fall, a spokesperson said.
"Their roles will be navigators, essentially, to help individuals navigate the various systems they may require," EPS said. "The EPS is planning to work with community partners to help with the hiring of these workers."
The HELP program, a recommendation under the EPS Vision 2020 plan, has not been formally announced.
It will be targeted toward people who police deal with regularly for "disorder, mental health and addictions issues as well as those identified by our beat and patrol members," EPS said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Dan Grummett.