CALGARY – There’s going to be more pressure on police to deal with issues that were pushed to the side during the pandemic, according to one expert.
“You know we do have to come to terms with the racial issues in policing in Canada,” he said.
King says a lot of issues involving police were pushed aside during the pandemic, but as things start to get back to normal, some will be cropping up again.
He says he fully expects to hear a lot of conversations about racial injustice in policing to come up.
And with an upcoming municipal election, police funding will likely once again be a topic of discussion.
Calgary police have already reallocated $8 million of the CPS budget to the community safety investment framework and King expects that kind of thing to continue happening.
“I fully expect that the Calgary Police Service will at least get a cap–which means no more hiring of police offices. Or it may actually get a reduction,” he predicted.
Another issue that will be front and centre, according to King, will be opioids and overdoses.
“Police have got to start understanding they’ve got a role in how they respond to the opioid epidemic.”
Creating a provincial police force will be costly, anticipates King
The province is looking into the idea of an Alberta provincial police force. Justice Minister Kaycee Madu is touring the province right now consulting Albertans on just that.
King says while it’s an option, it’ll be an expensive one. He points out that right now Alberta covers 70 per cent of the cost of the RCMP.
“We would have to then pay 100 per cent of the new Alberta police agency, and that’s not just the people–where do you train them? You have to put them in vehicles, you have to do things like uniforms. So we’re talking, potentially an increase each year–if we were to go this way–of about $200 million a year.”
King says on top of that, there would be a lot of firing and hiring.
“[This comes] during a time where the pool of qualified applicants for policing across North America has been shrinking.”
King says a lot of the feedback he’s heard is not in favour of forming a new provincial police force.
Will a review of the Police Act actually happen? King skeptical
The justice minister is also collecting feedback on the Police Act on his tour of southern Alberta, but King doubts that any meaningful changes will come of that.
Alberta’s Police Act hasn’t been formally reviewed since it was introduced in 1988.
King says multiple governments have committed to an overhaul of it but none have followed through.
“We’re now into the third decade of the government saying they’re going to revise the Alberta Police Act–literally the third decade,” said King.
King says there are a number of things in the act that need to be addressed but one of the most pressing is a revisioning of civilian oversite. He says the current model is old.
“It’s 40 years old, and it has become–in my [opinion]–non-responsive to the citizens that are supposed to be served by police commissions.”
He says officers and police forces may not be in favour of major changes but says it desperately needs to happen.