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City continuing to look for more powers to enforce COVID-19 restrictions

Last Updated Nov 27, 2020 at 4:05 pm MDT

(Tom Ross - 660NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — The City of Calgary is still looking for some more permissions from the province to assist with enforcing public health orders during the pandemic.

Enforcement is being stepped up in the wake of additional restrictions announced this week by Premier Jason Kenney and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

But while police and some peace officers in the city can issue tickets, there’s 69 more peace officers that cannot be utilized for enforcement because they lack a certain certification from Alberta.

“The province of Alberta has been great and has been working with us on this situation,” Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson said. “Calgary’s in a situation where we have 15 level one peace officers, that’s where the province was focusing their enforcement actions.”

Mayor Naheed Nenshi clarified that the different levels of officers receive almost the exact same training, with the exception that level one officers also carry pepper spray. Sampson added that level one officers are usually the ones writing tickets for egregious behaviours, but in this situation it would make sense to expand it to other officers.

Sampson said the city is sending out an application to expand the allowances to level two officers to boost enforcement levels.

Director of Community Standards Richard Hinse said there are ongoing conversations with the province and there’s optimism it will work out.

“Calgary has some unique circumstances in regards to the number of officers that are available that we’re not utilizing right now, and the government understands that.”

Furthermore, with the prospect of more anti-mask protests happening over the weekend in Calgary, there may have to be boosted enforcement to ensure public safety is protected.

“You cannot have an outdoor gathering with more than ten people,” Nenshi said. “Of course, police will always use their discretion in cases like this. They don’t want the enforcement to cause more danger for people. But I want to let you know, whether you agree or disagree, it is your right to assemble peacefully. However, right now the law says you can only assemble in a group of ten people.”

Sampson said it is a challenge to balance all the risks here and police are going to find a proper solution.

The province officially gave power for level one officers to issue tickets relating to public health orders on Friday.