Council approves recommended police reforms, puts funding decisions on hold

· The Pulse
By Jackson Spring

The City of Edmonton and the Edmonton police commission will work together to implement 13 of the 14 recommendations to address discrimination in policing, outlined by the community safety and well-being task force.

Council voted on April 6 to move forward with "quickly actionable" items within 90 days, while a recommendation to freeze police funding will be further analyzed, and reconsidered in early 2022.

The task force was created by council in July 2020, in response to nationwide demonstrations against systemic racism, and a public hearing where dozens of community members expressed concerns with Edmonton’s police force. The task force aims to address racism, discrimination, and excessive use of force in the city's law enforcement agencies.

The task force’s recommendations include anti-racism training for officers, a temporary freeze on increases to the Edmonton Police Service budget, and re-directing the funds budgeted for those increases to other social services, such as social work agencies.

The task force's report said that "Edmonton's community safety ecosystem desperately needs to be modernized." (City of Edmonton) The task force's report said that "Edmonton's community safety ecosystem desperately needs to be modernized." (City of Edmonton)

A motion to implement the quickly actionable recommendations was approved unanimously, while a motion to study the funding freeze was approved 8-5, with Mayor Iveson and Coun. Mohinder Banga, Tony Caterina, Bev Esslinger, Ben Henderson, Andrew Knack, Scott McKeen, and Aaron Paquette voting for, and Coun. Tim Cartmell, Jon Dziadyk, Sarah Hamilton, Mike Nickel, and Michael Walters voting against.

  • Task force member Rob Houle implored the city to move quickly on the recommendations, saying: “If we recognize there are problems, doing nothing is not an option.”

  • Mayor Don Iveson said: "As mayor, I think it is important for me to acknowledge that some folks just do not feel safe in our city." He also spoke against making long-term funding decisions right now, explaining that "this council cannot make financial decisions for the next council."

  • Task force member Marni Panas argued against Iveson’s point on Twitter, writing: "There are meaningful actions that can be taken right now to support future councils. If current council is brave enough."

  • Also taking to social media after the council meeting, Coun. Aaron Paquette wrote: “Racism (and) poverty stem from policies that have been implemented for generations. By changing policy, we can start to take action and create a city in which everyone feels safe.”