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Oscar

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Reply with quote  #1 
Join the discussion about civilian oversight for policing in St. Albert at
policingstalbert.ca
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Oscar

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Reply with quote  #2 

Over history, Canadian policing has enjoyed a great deal of respect and in some cases, admiration. Ordinary folks intuitively understood the need for laws to govern the ‘masses’, otherwise suffer with anarchy. We recognize that as new societal issues arise, each requires monitoring and adjustment so the behaviour can be legislated and policed effectively. Police are now and have always been expected to be adaptable and fair.

Society now has greater expectations of transparency and disclosure.  No longer is it acceptable to have any government hide what they are doing with finances, overall governance, or how they treat their citizens. In a democracy, people are entitled to have a say in how their lives are managed.

It’s no different in St. Albert. We have been ably policed by the RCMP for many years. They had little obligation to explain their actions to anyone, and enjoyed solid community support. Canada-wide policing systems operated in that fashion for a long time.

As this transition occurred, society began to express greater expectation of how they would be governed and policed. Many legislatures across Canada provided those jurisdictions with civilian oversight capacity and many cities in Canada adopted a ‘community based’ and ‘intelligence lead’ approach to policing and policing governance. Along with FOIP legislation, it has become clear that citizens want and expect to know and have a say in what their cities and police services are doing.

For at least five years, Mayor Crouse has been asked to consider a police oversight system. Requests have been made to track the work completed by the St. Albert RCMP, and to establish metrics that would be useful to either support calls for additional officers, or re-align their duties to be more efficient given financial constraints. We now know that reports with sufficient detail are or can be produced for the Mayor, but are not shared with all City Council members or the public at large.

At some point, a ‘police advisory committee’ was struck in St. Albert. Such a committee is purely advisory in function, and exists at the discretion of the detachment Officer in Charge (OIC). Indeed, the last advisory committee was terminated by then Insp. MURRAY as ‘non-functional’. Currently, there is no true civilian oversight of police in St. Albert.

Our group, ‘St. Albert Citizens for a Policing Committee’ believe it is time for change. We believe it is no longer appropriate for a single point of contact between the City of St. Albert (the Mayor) and our police service. We believe there is insufficient separation between the authority of policing, and the influences and preferences of our civic politics. It is no longer acceptable that all instructions to our police service originate from and are vetted or controlled by the Mayor. Requests to the Mayor for disclosure of the 2016-2017 police objectives were met with deflection.

We understand that the St. Albert RCMP are obligated to follow the instructions of the Mayor. They are under contract to St. Albert, and the existing Municipal Police Agreement defines exactly that reporting relationship. We only speak of our RCMP detachment because there is no manner in which to address the concerns with Mayor Crouse’s control of the RCMP without identifying those components of that reporting and working relationship. Our group is extremely loyal to law enforcement, have complete respect for the work the RCMP must do, and wish only for a safe and friendly RCMP/community working environment in St. Albert.

However, it is difficult to appreciate exactly how the police function in St. Albert when there are few indicators of accomplishment by the detachment. The Mayor has either not asked for a full reporting, or alternatively, he does not feel compelled to share it with the public. Recent media reports were significantly lacking in detail, but no steps have been taken by the Mayor or the City to ensure that proper public recognition is given for ALL the police work accomplished in the last year.

There are many shortfalls with the existing City management of our RCMP. The City has failed to ensure that (legislated) proper and timely public surveys have been conducted to establish policing satisfaction in their community. There is no manner in which to monitor complaints against any local police officers. Although the citizens of St. Albert pay about 13 million dollars for RCMP policing each year, they apparently don’t need to know if those costs are efficiently managed. 

In order for objectives to be realized, they must be named, measurable and achievable. Public confidence that policing services are effective and efficient is only possible if goals and outcomes are shared through full disclosure.

Our group has decided to take a leadership role in this matter, supported by our experience, knowledge and demonstrated commitment to public safety. We live here, our children and grandchildren live here and they along with all residents in St. Albert deserve nothing less than an open and transparent relationship with the men and women we count on to protect us everyday. 

We believe the citizens of St. Albert are not getting full value for their policing dollar because of the exclusive and tightly controlled link between the Mayor and the OIC. We believe it is time for change.

Please visit    policingstalbert.ca  to learn more about this issue. We ask that you review the material, participate in the survey, and add any specific comments that you feel should be passed on to City Council. Or, write a letter to the Gazette, or write to the Mayor directly at    mayor@stalbert.ca 

Thanks for your help with this issue.

Al Bohachyk
St. Albert

 
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theskeptic

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Reply with quote  #3 

A Police Commission which produces more transparency and accountability in relation to St. Albert law enforcement would seem to be a no brainer.

However, there are some who take umbrage with the suggestion that the Mayor has too much influence over police enforcement. Apparently, their argument is that since there is no statute, regulation, or by-law which blatently says the Mayor can control police enforcement, there is no reason to be concerned. That argument is either disingenuous or naiive. It blindly ignores the fact that power can be either formal power or informal power... and fails to recognize that informal powers are every bit as real as formally delegated powers.

In St. Albert's case, the administrative structure places the Mayor in the position of being the sole liason with the police while at the same time a Mayor has considerable influence on what motions are passed in Council. Further, since St. Albert pays for the RCMP to police the City, it obviously follows that the RCMP should not alienate or cause disharmony with the Mayor as he is in a position to reduce their budget.

Do we see any situations in which the Mayor's informal powers has affected the objectivity of policing? It is certainly arguable that the case in which it was documented that Crouse double and triple dipped on at least a dozen occassions but was never charged criminally is such a case. Any other citizen caught in similar facts would have been charged with fraud or possibly theft as there were reasonable and probable grounds to lay the charge. In Crouse's case ... did we get to see a written opinion as to why he was not being charge .... nope. All we got was a verbal statement from the CAO that he had talked to the police and they had formed an opinion that no charges should be laid. There was no transparency and certainly the decision not to charge Crouse was highly suspicious.

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Swallow1

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Reply with quote  #4 
"For at least five years, Mayor Crouse has been asked to consider a police oversight system.

You're joking, right?  The first guy to hit a jail cell may well end up being El Kabong!
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danapop

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Reply with quote  #5 
Can someone tell me what the norm is for communities our size?  How many citizen police commissions are there in the country?  Is there any terms of reference available to any of them?
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Head Honcho

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Reply with quote  #6 

The John Howard Society of Alberta did a study on the issue and may be helpful to some:

 http://www.johnhoward.ab.ca/docs/police/police.pdf

There is also this from Alberta Justice:

 https://www.solgps.alberta.ca/programs_and_services/public_security/law_enforcement_oversight/policing_oversight_complaints/civilian_oversight/Pages/default.aspx

New Brunswick has a police commission to cover all policing in the province:

http://www.nbpolicecommission.ca/site/en/

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Oscar

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Reply with quote  #7 

Any suggested impropriety on the part of any civic official should be examined absent of any perception of bias or favour. Independent oversight is one way to ensure that needed transparency is realized. 

Right now, the Mayor can influence policing enforcement, by way of the contractural agreement between the City and the RCMP. He is the sole City link between the two entities. 

theskeptic…To your question about any informal powers having affected the objectivity of policing, the answer is; ‘The public has no avenue to determine if that is so’. But it is possible. Because of the absence of fulsome reporting, the public cannot scrutinize where and why police staffing resources are assigned. If, by example, many police officers were assigned to attend to a specific task because of the Mayor’s preferences and instructions, but the task was not supported by the community, would that affect the objectivity of policing? Obviously, yes.

It may be that careful scrutiny of current police deployment would realize full community support. Perhaps it would not. The issue is that there is no reason for any resistance to disclosing of all relevant statistical information that is or should be routinely gathered and shared with the City. Transparency is critical. The community should have a reasonable opportunity to examine the facts, weigh necessity, and have influence in how police resources are deployed. That is the essence of community involvement and engagement, and is the basis of our argument that we must have an independent oversight committee.

 

danapop…We acknowledge that Policing Committees are not common in Alberta. However, that should not preclude consideration of adoption for St. Albert. Ft. Sask. has one that functions well. Their city residents have significantly more information for evaluation of whether their policing dollars are wisely spent. Their direct Policing Committee costs are $10,000 annually (for several years running) not including a shared city staff member (required for basic record keeping). Even if costs are slightly higher for St. Albert, they would pale against our annual policing budget.

It may be as well that other Alberta communities are managed differently and don’t perceive community / policing input shortfalls. We are maintaining the firm position that we do have shortfalls that deserve closer scrutiny.

Our website has many links which will aid in establishing what a policing committee will look like and how it MUST operate. It's not complex or risky.

 
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Oscar

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Reply with quote  #8 
Our group has completed a review of the 'first quarter update' provided by the St. Albert RCMP detachment. Both that update and the 'School Resource Officer Program & Community Policing Program Year End Report' were filed in the St. Albert corporate website a few weeks ago. Our review of the first quarter report is contained in the 'blog' portion of our website and the RCMP documents are easily located there as well. Both are an interesting read...

It may seem like we are pushing this initiative very hard. We see this as necessary as the only public response we have seen is from the Mayor and Inspector Foster, both who have taken a 'less than enthusiastic' tone in response to our efforts. Although City Council voted unanimously in support of creating a draft bylaw and terms of reference, we have NO confidence that when the actual debate takes place in Council, that the majority will support it. The vote to engage a draft bylaw was cost free (politically). We shall see what the real support is when it's debated. This is a long way from a done deal.

If you agree with our 'review' and the described perceived shortcomings, then we are asking that you engage this discussion with as many St Albert residents as possible. City Council, and in particular the Mayor, must start to hear about the support for civilian oversight. We're told the Mayor gauges public content/support by the number of calls and emails he gets. Let's make sure the message is clear.

We will continue to provide updates - as we get them - in our blog.

Again, the website is found at   policingstalbert.ca


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Al Bohachyk

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Reply with quote  #9 

Residents have until Friday afternoon to submit their applications for different boards and public advisory committees in St Albert. This is another avenue for you to have a 'say'.

Importantly, the Policing Committee requires volunteers. Although the application process seems unnecessarily complex, it is doable. Your participation in this committee will help guide the priorities for policing in SA. If you are interested, or have been thinking about it, please ensure you get your paperwork in before Fri at 5:00.

Easy access to all the necessary documentation is available in the 'blog' section of policingstalbert.ca

The 'criminal record check' takes 2 business days. Go to the detachment with ID, the process is simple.

3 letters of reference are also necessary. As is a 'letter of intent'. All those take a few moments, but can still be done in time.

Your participation is requested!!

Al Bohachyk

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Swallow1

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Posts: 766
Reply with quote  #10 

"Just this week we learned St. Albert was ranked in the top five cities in the province for safest cities."

Could it be that all those crooks who would rather hide in the dark than deal with El Kabong are now coming out of the woodwork? 

https://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/crime-wave-20171206

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