Alberta police chiefs gather near Calgary to discuss emerging issues

The annual Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) conference has kicked off at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino just outside Calgary city limits.

The Tsuut'ina Nation Police Service is hosting this year's two-day event covering shared challenges and emerging issues among police organizations in Alberta.

According to the AACP, intergenerational trauma, equity, diversity and inclusion and justice ideologies will be at the forefront of discussion.

"The purpose of the conference is to get the police leaders from around Alberta together to look at topics that are very important to all of us. Reconciliation, public confidence and trust. Those are all things that police services are really focusing on these days," said Chief of Police Keith Blake of the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service.

"The history of policing in Indigenous communities is not a great history. We have a lot of work to do to gain trust and confidence."

This year's event comes as the Calgary Police Service deals with a rise in violent crime, especially gun violence, compared to previous years.

More than 160 guns — 45 handguns and 115 long guns — have already been seized by Calgary police this year in connection with crime, and officers have responded to over 50 reports of gun violence. Approximately 1-in-6 of the seized firearms were tied to organized crime.

Calgary police seized 550 guns in connection with crime in 2021.

"We're not alone. I think major cities in the country are seeing an uptick in violence right now," said CPS Chief Constable and AACP President Mark Neufeld. "I can tell you that one of these [shootings] is one too many from our perspective."

Neufeld says officers are working hard to crack down on gun violence, but it hasn't always been an easy process with many of the individuals involved hesitant to cooperate with police.

"These are not random events and a lot of them are 'known people on known people' with some motivations in the background," he said.

"We have a pretty good idea for the most part when we see some spikes of who is involved. So sometimes, even though we don't get the cooperation on the shooting that happened the other night, we focus on preventing the next one. There's been some amazing work that's been done. Amazing work that you won't always see."

Calgary has also already seen 11 homicides in 2022 compared to 19 murders in 2021.

There are also renewed calls from Ward 1 Coun. Dan McLean to address the growing number of violent incidents reported at or near C-Train stations in the city.

"That's a huge issue. It's very important that every citizen who uses transit has the ability to feel safe," said Neufeld.

"We've been fully engaged with our partners in transit. I think a lot of it is that it's taken some time, over the course of the pandemic, ridership has been way down and there have been some habits that have been formed, I think, from people who have been using the facilities for things other than transit."

Neufeld highlighted the CPS' 'Safety for All' initiative in collaboration with transit officials.

"There's been a lot more engagement, there's been a lot more police and transit officers on the transit lines to help people feel safer, and we'll continue that," he said.

"I think you have short-term solutions by having more police officers and transit officers out there engaging with folks as ridership returns to more normal levels, and then there are longer term solutions and I think some of those are around crime prevention through environmental design."

Neufeld pointed to potential changes to ammenities like free Wi-Fi access that may be drawing more people to public transit locations.

The conference runs through Wednesday.