Episode 207 of Speaking Municipally takes a closer look at the province's plan to deploy 12 sheriffs to downtown Edmonton, billed as an effort to "help deter and respond to crime and social disorder."
For podcast co-host Mack Male, who lives, works, and raises his children downtown, sending a dozen sheriffs doesn't seem like it will have much of an effect on safety or even the perception of safety.
"I know that my perspective is not everybody's, and I don't profess to speak for everybody. I just personally can't see how an occasional spotting of a sheriff is going to materially change anything downtown," he said, agreeing with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Coun. Jo-Anne Wright, and Coun. Aaron Paquette that addressing homelessness, mental illness, and addictions would make a much bigger difference.
"Go to the Edmonton Public Library downtown, the Stanley Milner branch," Male said. "You don't have to stay there very long before you will see an ambulance show up. That is not going to get solved by having armed sheriffs ... walking around downtown."
The 15-week pilot project, which will assign the sheriffs to the Healthy Streets Operations Centre, is the first initiative to emerge from the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force that the province created in December. Councillors Sarah Hamilton and Tim Cartmell sit on the task force, but their presence has not been approved by city council.
Male and co-host Troy Pavlek go on to explore the cleavages this issue has revealed on council, as well as the role the Edmonton Police Commission could play under new chair Erick Ambtman. Hear it all on the Feb. 3 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast, which also delves into safe crossings, budget motions, artificial intelligence, and the proposed health hub in Ritchie.
Photo: Chief Dale McFee speaks at a news conference on Feb. 1 about the deployment of provincial sheriffs to downtown Edmonton, flanked by Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis and Coun. Sarah Hamilton. (Government of Alberta/YouTube