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Reflections on Police Governance

This week marked my last meeting as a member of the Edmonton Police Commission. I’ve served as a Commissioner since I was first elected to Council in 2017, and I have enjoyed the challenging and complex conversations and issues that have confronted police governance, both locally and across the country.


Reflecting on the past six years, I see an organization that has experienced significant transformation. I am frequently struck by the pride front-line officers take in their work, and their dedication not just to the broad outcomes of public safety, but to the care demonstrated to their communities. 


One of the key mandates assigned to EPS over the last six years was to increase the diversity of the workforce. We’ve since seen a steady increase in gender, ethnic and background diversity. While there is still a high attrition rate — and the reasons for that are complex and varied — the progress on this file has been steady.


I recall with great pride the apology delivered to the LGBTQ2S+ community in May 2019, an event of great importance to the Commission and to the community-at-large, and one that was fully embraced by the police service under the leadership of the newly-appointed Chief. 


We have a saying in politics — be hard on the issues and not on the people. And in a fraught and complex space like policing and public safety, that maxim is all the more important. 


Progress comes from trust; not in reference to credulity, but to the kind of trust generated by mutual respect, relationships, and common cause. The nature of the regulatory relationship, particularly in police governance, makes that trust, and the progress that it generates, a tricky thing to cultivate.


To that end, I see a police service that has made enormous changes, changed their internal culture, and leveraged these strengths to become a leader in public safety in North America. These are not superficial changes; they are structural changes that would be very hard to reverse, and I see a Commission that has held fast to supporting EPS through that transformation. This has engendered trust in those relationships to make that systemic change possible. 


Many folks will say that there are miles to go, and I wouldn’t argue otherwise; but the fact that we can see where we need to go should give every member of this Commission the confidence that they’re headed in the right direction. 


Sometimes it can be hard to see how far you’ve come until you reflect on where you began, and I want to encourage the current and future Police Commission to continue to cultivate trust and respect, and build towards the common cause of making Edmonton a safer city for everyone.


 

I would like to thank the Edmonton Police Commission staff — a small, but mighty, team that does everything from intaking complaints against the service, to planning and running our meetings, to working with the Solicitor General to ensure the Commission is meeting its legislative obligations under the Police Act.


I would also like to thank the Edmonton Police Service, who have seen the vision that this Police Commission has for public safety and strived to achieve it, and has done so in good faith. I am moved every time I speak with our members, both sworn and civilian, and their sophisticated and compassionate understanding of the issues that affect resident safety and well-being in our city.


Last, thank you to my fellow Commissioners, current and former, for whom the call to serve the community is something they live and feel every day.



-Sarah


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