For nearly a year, Edmontonians from all walks of life have engaged in a discussion about transforming our city’s approach to public safety.
The Edmonton Police Commission has taken an early and considered approach to its’ thinking on issues involving vulnerable and minority communities, public resources, funding, policing, and the broader human services ecosystem. Following public hearings last summer, Edmonton City Council passed a motion directing the Commission to develop a balanced approach to community safety by amending the scope of the Commission.
Our draft concept was presented to council on December 7, 2020 and has been made public yesterday. While our work requires further analysis between the Commission and city administration over the coming months, we welcome the opportunity to share our early thinking with Edmontonians.
Doing things differently
Improving community safety and achieving better outcomes for all residents, including for racialized and vulnerable communities, means things must be done differently. Because there are billions of dollars already invested in the human services ecosystem, the Commission believes that funding is not the primary issue so much as aligning and integrating services. That is why we recommend a gradual transition to a full public governance and programming model for municipal services within the human services ecosystem.
We envision a new public governance entity responsible for all municipal programs within the traditional social services space, including policing. In the interim, the Commission’s role could be revised to include oversight of the other law enforcement services currently operated by the City. Furthermore, a new Agency, Board or Commission (ABC) for Social Services could be developed for the City of Edmonton. This model would increase communications and coordination among departments, external agencies, and other government service providers in the delivery of these services. Critically, it will identify gaps in services and opportunities to redirect resources in a more efficient and responsive manner.
Eventually, a Community Safety and Wellbeing Commission could be developed to oversee the previous law enforcement and social services systems. Responsible to city council, this new commission would oversee operational and strategic decisions related to housing, homelessness, law enforcement, and social services. While we look forward to collaborating with city administration and other stakeholders to further consider this approach, we believe this model treats community safety as a holistic concern to be addressed by one agency with a focus on a successful system, and not any one individual part.
This would represent a major change in the governance of safety and wellbeing in Edmonton, but we emphasize this would not detract from the essential role of policing. Rather, it would allow a greater focus on the systemic causes (such as poverty, housing and social service needs) which create so many of the current pressures on the Edmonton Police Service.
The Commission believes that now is the time to provide substantive and visionary solutions to deliver a better governance model. We remain committed to working with the community and City Council in exploring these.
Micki Ruth, Chair, Edmonton Police Commission