A post to Linkedin and Facebook by Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee was making the rounds late on September 10. In his announcement that will take place today (September 11) at 1pm, the UCP fundraiser participant is heralding a crackdown on visible houselessness, a predictable outcome of years of provincial, municipal and policing policy.
Recall the pre-election UCP Public Safety and Community Response Task Force launched in December. After nine months to strike a “new approach,” UCP surrogates including Councillor Tim Cartmell, Councillor Sarah Hamilton and former Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin (opening speaker at this weekend’s federal CPC convention) have nothing to show but mask-off loyalty to increasingly alt-right party politics.
So what can journalists and the public expect today, on the 22nd anniversary of 9/11? Will McFee shamelessly leverage our collective trauma to plead his case to the public for more expansive police powers as the UCP brings the Compassionate Intervention Act into being?
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Will Chief McFee finally take a "balanced approach" in his gushing praise of the UCP and start calling on his chosen party to reverse their countless decisions that led us to this affordability quagmire?
As for “open-air drug use” — the American dog whistle for visible houselessness — if the UCP took this seriously, they wouldn’t have closed Boyle Street’s supervised consumption site, driving thousands of monthly site users into public spaces.
Will Chief McFee take responsibility for the mess he has helped create? Will he stand up to the UCP on behalf of the citizens who pay his $357,000 annual salary?
He won’t, but for those listening, he will continue to reveal policing’s bait-and-switch, in which they never lose. If crime goes up, it’s because there aren’t enough cops — we get more policing. If crime goes down, it’s because police activity — and guess what? More policing.
We are living through a period in which no one can dictate to the police: no mayor, no MLA, no city councillor. And certainly not the police commission, unless they’re asking police to replace racist symbols with near-identical alternatives.
A judge even granted the City of Edmonton an injuction during the convoy occupation. The outcome? Edmonton Police let the honking continue while staging plans for mass arrests of the counter-protesters.
Will McFee call out the UCP’s empty lip service to “addiction recovery”? Leaving alone the evidence against residential treatment in addressing drug poisoning, there aren't beds available for the people who want to access it. And for those who don't, police chiefs across this province will lead their forces to commit people into “compassionate intervention.”
Will McFee take a stand on violence that provides justification for, in his words, "anti-police rhetoric?” Why hasn’t he fired Constable Alexander Dodek, charged through an ASIRT investigation of excessive force and defending a lawsuit by the family of a man he fatally shot, Stephen Nguyen? Why hasn’t he fired Cst. Ben Todd after his head-kicking of Pacey Dumas?
According to the Police Union newsletter, McFee has fertilized a culture of cronyism.
Perhaps his inaction is a message in itself: any force built on cronyism, whether it’s police or mafia, sustains its power through visible, sanctioned use of violence.
Will McFee admit his broken war on drugs has failed and that it is time for a new approach that centres people and acknowledges the harms of policing in the context of criminalized drug use?
It’s telling that McFee and other chiefs refuse the incontrovertible evidence on housing-first and safe supply. After all, criminalizing the poor and people who use illegal drugs is a make-work project for the police. Coincidentally, on September 8, Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld took to Twitter to condemn drug decriminalization.
Despite all the talk of gathering it, police routinely ignore the evidence.
Will McFee and his UCP ministers take responsibility, or will we get more of the same: helping no one but themselves and their industry allies while fuelling racist and classist sentiments against the unhoused?
Having recently been a likely target for surveillance and intimidation at the hands of Calgary Police, I’m familiar with the media’s timidity around calling out cops.
But for those members of the press in attendance at Chief McFee’s announcement at 1pm today (September 11), I have a plea:
The institutions designed to protect the political impartiality of policing are repeatedly failing.
Please, bring a critical ear and question McFee’s rhetoric, lies and contradictions. If you don’t, no one will.