'Insulting and demeaning': Police union slams task force recommendations on policing
EDMONTON -- The president of the Edmonton Police Association (EPA) has penned a damning letter accusing a task force directed to help improve the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) of being biased themselves.
The letter states that while the task force declared decisions should be made based on evidence, it did not follow its own advice.
The EPA said the group "used its own anti-police biases and stereotypes to attack the women and men of this police service who dedicate their careers to serving the people of Edmonton."
The letter also states the task force alleges racism is baked in to the EPS when the force is made up of "a diverse group of people from a variety of races, cultural backgrounds, and sexual orientations."
It comes following the release of a 59-page report by the Community Safety and Well-being Task Force.
Among the 14 recommendations the report made were creating a communal dispatch centre for emergency crews, enhancing recruitment and training programs to encourage diversity and anti-racist organizational structures as well as freezing funding over the next five years.
The task force was formed in November and is made up of Edmontonians with diverse backgrounds, many of whom have dealt with discrimination in the past.
There is also two EPS members, two city administrators and a police commission member.
'OUR LIVED EXPERIENCE IS EVIDENCE': TASK FORCE MEMBER
One task force member told CTV News Edmonton Friday that the tone of the letter "is intended to incite anger" and said it displays how deeply rooted systemic issues are.
"It's intended to fearmonger. It's intended to gaslight. It's intended to intimidate people like us to stay silent," Marni Panas said. "I feel a little less safe today."
Panas is a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
She said the police union's response indicates some officers don't want to believe or accept the reality of marginalized Edmontonians.
"Our lived experience is evidence," Panas said. "The issue is, are you in a position to want to do the work and listen and be humble? And that's not what I am seeing in this response."
'I AM NOT TOTALLY SHOCKED': CITY COUNCILLOR
One city councillor said some of the finest people he's met are police officers so he understands why they're upset about being painted in a negative light.
"The Black Lives Matter and defund the police hearings we held were a shout of outrage and now we finally get the responding shout of outrage from the police. I think it's totally fair," Coun. Scott McKeen told CTV News Edmonton.
On Tuesday, city councillors unanimously approved 13 of the 14 task force recommendations.
The recommendation to freeze funding was not approved outright.
Councillors instead directed city administration to do more analysis of the funding formula and report back next year.
"We'll ask administration to chew through that report and our motions objectively and with good outcomes in mind," said McKeen. "We are not out to punish police."
On Friday afternoon, EPA president Mike Elliott discussed the letter with members of the media.
He stood by his message and said the strong wording was intentional.
"It's really raised the emotion, it's raised the perspectives, it's raised the dialogue," Elliott said. "This is how important this is to us."
Elliott said this year has been "extremely difficult" for police and that constant attacks from members of the public are adding to the stress.
"Members being called racists and bigots and things of that nature yet they're there to help the community," he said.
Elliott said that while he agrees with some of the task force recommendations, many are redundant and he questions where the money is going to come from to make changes.
"If we freeze or cut budgets, who's going to pay for these additional resources?" he asked.