(Left to right) Cllr Magliocca, Alberta Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu, Cllr Sean Chu, Cllr Farkas were all proponents of the province’s $12-million (30%) cut to the Calgary Police Service budget in 2019.
The police budget is the talk of the town, and it should be
There has been plenty of chatter amongst politicians in Calgary and across the province over City Council’s decision to investigate reallocating 5% of the Calgary Police Service budget towards a Community Safety Framework. The framework would address gaps in crisis services, outreach services and emergency response, as well as gaps in racially and culturally appropriate services.
“Best tool for the job”: Police Chief supports redirecting some funds to social agencies
Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld spoke to City Council in support of redirecting some police funds to social agencies. (Source: CTV News)
Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld acknowledged the shortcomings of relying on the Calgary Police as a catchall for social issues in the community recently when he said “The best tool for the job, or the best first response for some of the calls that we go to, perhaps isn't the police” and suggested that some of the Calgary Police budget could be redirected to agencies that are better suited to help people who have mental health or addictions issues.
On the quest for “extremists”
Councillor Farkas has labelled Calgarians who support a small 5% reallocation of police funds for community safety as “extremists” (Source: CTV News)
In Calgary City Council, Ward 11 Councillor Farkas referred to advocates of the 5% police budget reallocation as “extremists” and wrote that any move to defund the police budget was “playing with fire”. These are conflicting words for a councillor who just one year ago praised the provincial government for defunding the Calgary Police Service by $12-million (a 30% provincial reduction) to help plug Alberta’s record high deficit created in large part by the $4.7-billion corporate tax cut.
So what stopped Farkas from calling out the “extremist” provincial government at the time?
"There is also significant cost savings to having the DOAP Team pick up sharps throughout the city rather than deploying frontline services like Calgary Fire or Calgary Police"
-Jeromy Farkas, October 2019
Farkas proposed defunding the Calgary Police and Calgary Fire Department to fund the DOAP team last fall
Last fall, Councillor Farkas proposed defunding the Calgary Police and Calgary Fire Department to fund a community social agency writing in his monthly Q&A: "There is also significant cost savings to having the DOAP Team pick up sharps throughout the city rather than deploying frontline services like Calgary Fire or Calgary Police" This is precisely the type of initiative Council is investigating today with the 5% Calgary Police budget reallocation to a Community Service Framework for community social agencies like the DOAP team.
Oddly, Councillor Farkas is now accusing his fellow councillors of trying to "appease extremists" for doing exactly what he had proposed just one year ago.
Not the sharpest public safety advocates in the drawer
These three Councillor’s kept their mouths zipped in 2019 when the province looted the Calgary Police budget by $12-million. (Source: Toronto Star)
Farkas wasn’t the only city councillor in 2019 sitting on his hands when the Alberta Government cut $12-million from the Calgary Police Service budget. Ward 2 Councillor Magliocca and Ward 4 Councillor Chu were also quiet as mice after the provincial smash and grab of the Calgary Police budget in 2019.
Councillor Chu tweeted that defunding the police to fund a community safety framework would “would destabilize safety” only to vote to destabilize public safety with longer EMS response times just two weeks later. (Source: Twitter)
On the recent Council motion to reallocate 5% of the police budget to a Community Safety Framework, Councillor Chu tweeted it would “destabilize our safety”. But just two weeks later, our public safety heros Councillors Chu and Magliocca voted against a motion to oppose the province’s stunning move to destabilize public safety by consolidating Calgary’s EMS services to a centralized Alberta dispatch centre, a decision that evidence showed would only jeopardize Calgary’s EMS response times.
Councillor Chu and Magliocca voted against opposing the province’s move to destabilize public safety in Calgary with longer EMS response times. (Source: Calgary City Council minutes of the special meeting of Council, September 28, 2020.)
Kaycee Madu: Alberta’s supreme police de-funder
Alberta’s Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu has taken to Twitter recently to attack Calgary City Councillors for working together with Calgarians and the Calgary Police Service to reallocate 5% of their funds to more appropriate community agencies. He has labelled advocates of Defund2Fund as “a bunch of socialists who would prefer a chaotic world”.
"...in the last year alone Komrade Madu’s government has defunded Calgary’s Police by $12-million, Edmonton’s Police by $5-million and police service for rural municipalities across Alberta by $15.4-million."
However, we would be remiss not to point out that in the last year alone Komrade Madu’s government has defunded Calgary’s Police by $12-million, Edmonton’s Police by $5-million and police service for rural municipalities across Alberta by $15.4-million.
Thousands of Calgarians marched this past summer in support of Black Lives Matter. (Photo by Jon Lee)
Of the thousands of Calgarians who marched peacefully through the streets this summer against systemic racism, Madu has said “the concept of law and order is alien to them” with no sense of irony that his current boss is still under RCMP investigation for election fraud or that his own government is actually working on abolishing the RCMP in Alberta altogether.
Political shenanigans aside, it comes down to smarter spending
Approximately 30% of calls to the Calgary Police involve vulnerable people. In this time of growing social crises involving mental health, addictions and homelessness, the police have become a very expensive multi-tool when we could be calling on more cost-effective services that are much better equipped to deal with these problems. Police Chief Neufeld agrees, as do many city councillors.
The Calgary Police Services is the largest single line item in the city’s budget. Reallocating 5% of that budget to more appropriate and more cost-effective service providers is not anti-police. It’s simply a smarter use of finite public dollars.
Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell championed the provincial government’s $12-million cuts to the Calgary Police Service in 2019 when he wrote: “Spend smarter. Spend less.”
In the case of City Council's deliberations to reallocate 5% of the police budget next week, we couldn’t agree more.
About the Author
Peter Oliver is a local community advocate and co-founder of Project Calgary.
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