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Closing Calgary's Community Police Stations is the Wrong Move

Tagged Criminal Defence Blog

March 17, 2016

I promise, when the Calgary Police—and the Calgary powers-that-be who hold the purse strings—finally start doing their jobs in a way that serves the long-term best interests of the Calgary community, protecting and preserving the average citizen's liberty, safety and security rather than trying to dominate through force and intimidation, I'll stop writing these complaining and condemnatory blog posts.

Maybe.

Until that day, though, I feel I have free rein on the subject of the police and Calgary's criminal justice system, and in fact I feel an obligation to speak up about the serious mismanagement and misguided philosophy that is turning our city into one of adversaries rather than partners, colleagues, and friends.

It's precisely that mismanagement and misguided philosophy I'd like to address today, as it lies at the heart of the decision to continue closing Calgary's community police stations. Largely staffed by volunteers and occupying small street-corner shops or mall-bound stalls, these stations were a visible way to create a non-threatening and approachable police presence, showing Calgary's other community members that the police were there to help and could be spoken to as allies rather than suspicious adversaries.

These community stations humanized the Calgary Police and gave Calgary citizens a sense of ownership over their communities. With a law enforcement partner located right there in a non-intimidating community station, there was a much lower barrier to reporting minor crimes and asking questions about potential neighborhood problems. These stations created a sense that we were all in this together, and though that sense might not have been completely pervasive or without considerable flaws it was at least an effort to move in the right direction.

So when budget shortfalls hit, it should have been of little surprise that this noble effort was quickly put on the chopping block.

The rationale is the typical line we here from the Calgary Police (and the Calgary Herald, for that matter): the depressed economy has led to a spike in the crime rate, and the best way to address more crime is to have more police on the streets, so they're moving police out of the community stations and onto beat patrols so they can arrest people for street-level crime.

The Calgary Police have even decided that moving personnel from general investigations and 911 call centres to street patrols is a good way to proceed.

All of these decisions, and especially the community station closures, reflect the philosophy that crime is best addressed by fighting "criminals," especially by catching them in the act of petty theft or small-time drug dealing. Rather than providing better resources and establishing greater trust in order to prevent crime from happening in the first place, our city's police leadership has decided to fight the smallest crimes after they occur. Meanwhile the crime rate keeps going up and community trust in the Calgary Police keeps going down.

Calgary's Defence Shouldn't Start in the Courtroom

I'm a criminal defence lawyer by trade, so I'm used to fighting my battles in Calgary's courtrooms. All Calgary citizens should be fighting in the press, though—fighting for a police force that truly serves their interests. The best defence against police abuses is to create a police force that sees itself as part of the community, just as the best way to prevent crime is to create a citizenry that sees itself as interconnected and interdependent.

If you've been charged with a crime in Calgary and would like to speak with a defence lawyer on a mission to make Calgary whole again, please contact me today.


This entry was tagged Criminal Defence Blog and posted on March 17, 2016


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