CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The chief of Calgary police said he wants to re-allocate money from the police budget to help those struggling with mental health and addiction.
Chief Mark Neufeld discussed the idea during a meeting between City Council and senior members of the Calgary Police Service and Police Commission.
Neufeld said CPS has become the de facto social services agency and they may not be the best equipped to deal with those calls.
“This is a job that we didn’t apply for but it came to us by virtue of the fact that we’re available 24/7 and 365.”
He added working with other agencies will reduce demand on police and get care to those who need it.
“We’ve heard members of the community when they said police may not be the best first repsonders for various types of calls involving mental health and addicitions. We agree.”
The special meeting comes two months after concerns were raised about police mistreatment of Black, Indigenous and other racialized people in Calgary.
It also follows a call from Mayor Naheed Nenshi for the police service to consider cutting its budget as part of the city’s plan to save money.
A report released ahead of the meeting said the service has heard calls to defund police and to support people experiencing homelessness, mental health issues or addiction.
This report from the Calgary Police Service is fascinating….They are meeting with council today to look at how they…
The topic of systemic racism within the force was also brought forward with Neufeld saying while it’ll take time, there will be a “transformational change” at CPS.
The chair of the Calgary Police Commission’s added that an anti-racism committee has been started.
Other concerns brought forward to police included more diversity and inclusion in the workplace, improving accountability and transparency and community engagement.
The report notes that police support the expansion of programs like the Alpha House’s Downtown Addictions Outreach Partnership (DOAP), as well as the Police and Crisis Team (PACT).
PACT uses a police officer and mental health professional to help people with mental health issues.
Calgary currently has an annual operating budget of just over $400 million, making it the single-most expensive service the city funds.