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Ward 11 - Jeromy Farkas

Jeromy On Supporting Our Police

Jeromy provided the following debate at the recent September 2020 Special Meeting of Council with the Police Commission:

 “Let me begin by stating that I welcome this meeting and have been looking forward to it. As a Council and as a Commission, we are duty bound to be accountable to the public and should welcome such scrutiny.

I am new in my role as a commission member but I have seen first-hand how this has been a transformational year for CPS and the Commission. With a new chief, a new chair, and a changeover of a majority of members, we have been able to hit the ground running. One challenge and opportunity and opportunity of COVID-19 is that everything organizationally has been on the table for review, scrutiny, and change.

I’ve been impressed with our dedicated volunteer commissioners, as well as the staff who enable us to do our work. This is not a commission that is afraid of asking tough questions. And despite claims otherwise, this commission is not a racist organization. To those I serve alongside, I want to say clearly on behalf of those Calgarians I represent: you serve an essential oversight function. I support you, I thank you for your work, and I do not think you are racist.

Before I get into the specifics of this document, I wanted to touch on the issue of defunding the police. At times I have challenged the police, just as I would any other City department, to bring forward their cost saving ideas. They have demonstrated that they are able to meet that bar asked of them.

However, I do not at all support these calls to dismantle, and abolish the police. Calling to abolish the police is a direct attack on our City’s safety, and it is being promoted by those who aim to disrupt and cause chaos in our society.

Instead of defund, our agenda must be to refine and better define the police. This means making necessary changes to support community policing and ensure that our police can focus on policing. The way I see this, you wouldn’t send a fire fighter to a bank robbery. You wouldn’t send a paramedic to put out a fire. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to help with your electrical issues. It might work for a time, but you will end up calling over and over again, wasting money and making others who need their kind of help, wait.

As a city, we ask a very small group of people to deal with all the worst aspects of society and keep the rest of us safe. They never asked to be the “be all” agency that always gets called for everything. We must set up our community up for success, by ensuring that Police are actually get to the calls involving their strengths and skillsets.

While holding them accountable, we need to better refine and define our police and give them the resources, training, and supports they need to do their job.

To the Chief and your executive leadership team, I agree largely with the action items you’ve put in this document. I won’t list everything, but better data collection, a review of the body worn camera program, reviews of use of force, the school resource officer program, street checks, complaints process, modernization of the Police Act, reflect good alignment.

There is a lot of alignment here and it reflects what Commission, Council, and Calgarians have been asking for. There is also alignment with what the newly appointed provincial Justice Minister has called for in his recent letter to Council, expediting work to review the Police Act and accelerating initial changes such as guidelines surrounding carding and street checks, police training, and police recruitment.

I wish I could leave it there, but I have to address some of the declarations and omissions made in this report. Firstly the claim on page 1 that “We know that the very foundation by which policing was created was inherently racist.”

I do not believe that at all to be true. 

Sir Robert Peel is said to be the father of modern policing. In 1829 he created the Metropolitan Police in London, England and proposed many of the fundamental principles that set out the police to not be an arm of the state but instead an extension of the community. I won’t repeat all of the principles as I am sure that you know them well, but I think it is worth mentioning the first, which is that “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”

He goes on to emphasize that “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.”

The Police are the public and the public are the police. For this reason, I can no more say that every cop is racist as I can say that every Calgarian is racist. That is just not true.

The report goes on to say that this is not about bad apples, but I would argue it absolutely must be. Our efforts must focused on those individuals who are unable or unwilling to share in this agenda of reform, those who abuse the trust that’s been vested in them. It’s about closing loopholes that have allowed those who have betrayed our trust and caused unspeakable harm to escape without accountability. With reforms to the Police Act, we can lay down the hammer much harder on those abuses and be able to show clearly to the public that justice has been done.

At the same time, we need to encourage the vast majority of individuals who have taken up the duty of policing for all the right reasons. Council, as I’m sure you’re aware there has been a lot of anxiety in leading up to this meeting. In our roles as elected officials, we are blessed to work with some of the best that this City has to offer, including professionals at CPS such as community resource officers and school resource officers.

Many CPS employees have contacted me and shared their concerns, questioning what the value is in working to achieve reform and to set a good example, and most importantly, to be anti-racist and call out behavior that is not to the standards that Calgarians rightfully demand. Why do this if in the end they are going to be painted as racists anyway? What’s the point?

While the actions proposed in this document are largely the right ones, what was missing in this document was a specific acknowledgement of the progress that has been made. Chief, I appreciated your specific acknowledgement today of the people who have worked so hard to achieve that progress.

For example, there are calls for the Police to partner with organizations in a way that can help individuals experience mental health, addictions, or crisis.

Our CPS has been a leader in partnerships like this, and has been approached from across North America for guidance on how to implement programs such as PACT, the Police and Crisis Team that offers mental health assessment, support, and consultation in crisis situations from Alberta Health Services.

The Youth at Risk Development Program (YARD) is a community-based early intervention initiative, delivered in partnership with the Calgary Police Service, Calgary Neighbourhoods, and Alberta Health Services. It supports youth who are at risk of gang involvement and involves teams consisting of a police officer and a registered social worker, work closely with youth, their families, schools and community agencies. YARD works to develop an individualized case plan that is family centered in order to help youth at risk avoid or escape the gang life style.

I could go on with examples, but the reason I bring this up is not to say that this is a communications exercise, where if only the Police advertised better the challenges and scrutiny would go away. No, there are very real challenges, but if we are to meet them, we need to enter the fight with full stock of what is going right, what we are doing well, and the great people who are doing that work – rather than just what has gone wrong.

To those men and women who show up every day excited to do your work to keep us safe. No, I do not think the foundation for your work, your passion, your professionalism, and your career is racist. I think your foundation is that you want to do good for our community. You welcome the opportunities to be held accountable, and you deserve to be thanked.

Thank you. I support you. And on behalf of those Calgarians I represent, no, I do not believe you are racist. We have work to do together, but I do not believe that our Calgary Police Service is a racist organization. Thank you for your commitment to be relentless in your pursuit of getting it right. We are going to get there together.”

Categories: Coun. Jeromy Farkas

This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.