What is proactive policing?
While reactive and traditional policing is the act of responding to a crime after it’s been committed, proactive policing is a method of seeking out and deterring crime before it occurs through police presence and show of force. A commonly cited example of proactive policing is “stop-and-frisk”, which is the practice of detaining, questioning and/or searching any civilian on the street for weapons or other contraband. Proactive policing is also the practice of increasing police presence in certain areas to send a message to the public - we are here and we are watching you. Proactive policing relies on the assumption of potential guilt, which is contrary to one of our most basic democratic principles of justice -- that citizens are innocent until proven guilty.
Does it work?
It’s hard to say. It might, but not without significant consequences.
A recent opinion piece on CNN from an American law enforcement analyst and retired FBI agent who mostly worked in New York City stated that “studies [on proactive policing] have provided evidence they can prevent or reduce crime.” Yet, an analysis by the Washington Post found that, while major felonies declined in New York City from 2002 through 2013 (when stop-and-frisk was implemented by the mayor), the reduction did not correspond to the increase in stops by police. According to Washington Post, “crime has continued to fall since a federal judge deemed the practice an unconstitutional violation of civil rights in 2013.”
An analysis by the New York City Civil Liberties Union showed that, at the height of stop-and-frisk in NYC in 2011, over 685,000 citizens were stopped. Nearly 9 out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent. And racialized people continue to be the overwhelming target of this practice.
What are the consequences in the Calgary context?
A proactive policing approach in Calgary would see an increase in patrols in high-crime areas like downtown and the northeast -- where there is a high percentage of racialized and/or marginalized people, many of whom are criminalised and excluded from participation in high paying jobs. This will inevitably lead to an increase in racial profiling of innocent civilians, and erode any sense of trust and community belonging amongst those civilians. Increased police presence and force sends a clear message to these communities, and especially impressionable youth, that there is something wrong with them and they do not belong here. When people feel ostracized from the community, or that they don’t belong there, they lose any sense of responsibility to that community, including keeping it safe. Why would anyone be concerned with a community that is actively telling them they are unwelcome and under suspicion?
This will also add to the already highly disproportionate numbers of Indigenous and Black people in correctional facilities. The initial instance of incarceration often leads to cyclical involvement in the justice system and extreme social inequality. Regardless of the work one has done to make up for a past crime, that criminal record will be a constant barrier to employment, housing, education and other necessities to lift oneself out of this cycle. Ongoing probation continues to send a message to criminalized people: we do not trust you. Add on increased police presence to this cycle and the message is clear: you are not to be trusted. So, why would people are told they are criminals trust the very people who keep telling them they are criminal?
Why does crime happen in the first place?
Trauma and poverty are inextricably linked. Trauma, especially during childhood, changes the way one’s brain is wired. According to brain science, without positive interventions, this causes the brain to continue exhibiting those fight-or-flight responses which greatly increases the likelihood of criminal behaviour as an individual ages. Poverty and unemployment are also strong indicators of incarceration rates.
Racism and poverty are forms of trauma, as are negative interactions with law enforcement, especially when they are unwarranted. If increased policing results in increased trauma, it will inevitably lead to an increase in crime. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What’s the alternative?
We can effectively reduce and prevent crime without negative long-term consequences by addressing the root causes of crime such as poverty, unemployment, lack of belonging and trauma. It’s not only the more humane and just thing to do, it will actually lead to a more prosperous Calgary for all, and increased trust and engagement with police.
A percentage of the police budget must be reallocated to social programs that address the root causes of crime through an anti-racist, trauma-informed lens, rather than continuing to increase funding to the never-ending cycle of the justice system and agencies that don’t actively address systemic and interpersonal racism on a daily and operational basis.
This approach is proven to work: for example, Glasgow, Scotland's most populous city, lowered its murder rate by 50% through "smart law enforcement" combined with "programs targeted to youth, family health and other services in problem places."
This may mean that the City of Calgary needs to look at new organizations, lead by people with lived experience of, and expertise in racism, for this movement to be effective. It will be a process, rather than an overnight phenomenon. But it is necessary for the health and wellbeing of all citizens in Calgary. We know that criminalizing people does not work in the long term and “proactive policing” sends a message that certain people and certain areas of the city are not to be trusted. Let’s move Calgary forward and use a modern approach to policing that builds respect and resilience into the community we all call home.
His Worship Mayor Naheed Nenshi and The City of Calgary Councillors,
Thank you for hosting the public hearing on systemic racism on July 7 - 9, 2020. Although discussing racism is often uncomfortable, painful and re-traumatizing, we greatly appreciate the attention paid to this critical conversation and are awaiting the next steps.
Our team watched the recording of the hearing, in addition the livestream, and went through the written submissions to provide you with data based on the speakers’ stories. Please note these are initial estimates based on both the livestream and written submissions. In the graph below, the number represents the total number of people who stated their concerns during their presentation, as well as the percentage of times the concerns were mentioned.
As illustrated in the graphs above, an overwhelming number of participants had concerns about systemic racism in the Calgary Police Service. There were also specific key issues mentioned within each broad concern, including:
Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
Did you know that Calgary police officers shot and killed more people in 2018 than any other city in Canada? Alarmingly, this was also more than in either Chicago or New York, the two largest police departments in the US.
This is not just an American problem.
This past week, Calgary City Council heard from over 150 Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) who detailed countless incidents of abuse, mistreatment and discrimination at the hands of Calgary police. The trauma caused by law enforcement was undeniable on their faces and in their voices as they courageously shared their stories in hopes of meaningful change.
Above the Law is a new documentary on CBC that examines three cases of police violence in Calgary. The film clearly illustrates how Calgary Police have both taken and ruined the lives of so many Calgarians. This has a wide-reaching impact on not just their loved ones, but their communities as well.
We know that police brutality disproportionately impacts the BIPOC community. Yet, Calgary police are not mandated to collect race-based data which significantly limits their accountability. Their budget is nearly 10 times that of social services and affordable housing combined, despite the fact that these types of programs are proven to address the root causes of crime more effectively and humanely. It’s also more cost-effective, enabling your tax dollars to be reallocated to other important services.
Of the 15,963 contacts with the public recorded by Calgary police in 2018:
Police are not trauma counsellors, social workers or mental health practitioners. We’re recommending The City puts out a request for proposals from the BIPOC community for culturally specific social services that can address the root causes of crime related to homelessness, mental health and poverty. A percentage of the Calgary police budget should be reallocated to the selected proposal(s).
YOU can help make Calgary safer for not just the BIPOC community, but all Calgarians who’ve experienced police brutality. Share this documentary with the hashtag #DefundCPS to spread the word so that the defunding movement in Calgary is unignorable.
DefundCPS by Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
In 2018, 72% of interactions with Calgary Police were related to disorder (unruly behaviour) and/or vulnerable persons. Another 16% were related to drug use. This means that almost 90% of interactions with Calgary Police are directly related to social issues such as homelessness, poverty, mental health challenges and substance use disorders – often a result of untreated trauma.
Police officers are trained to deal with violence and danger to the public. They are not trained to be trauma counsellors or social workers. Policing is not a preventative measure but rather a reaction to a crime that has already been committed.
Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately targeted and impacted by the justice system, including policing. Many don’t feel safe calling police when they’re in danger because the police represent a greater threat to their safety, and possibly their lives.
Where did the phrase “defund the police” come from?
The concept of defunding police originated with Black activists and can be found as far back as the 1960s. It has gained momentum and credibility today as smartphone cameras and social media have exposed police brutality to a wider audience.
What does it mean?
Defunding police means reallocating a percentage of that funding to social services that address the root causes of crime, like education, mental health supports, affordable housing, youth programs, accessible transit and employment opportunities.
The majority of Calgarians’ tax dollars go towards policing – the single largest line item in the City’s budget at $401 million – while affordable housing and social services receive a measly $42 million. Calgary Police have little accountability as City Council doesn’t require them to specify exactly what they are spending that money on. Police budgets should be capped and transparent so citizens know exactly what their tax dollars are spent on. Government should be involved in deciding what the money is spent on to increase accountability.
Read more: Defunding the police in a Canadian context (E-Learning Resource)
Why is it important?
Policing is a foundational example of systemic racism in Canada, meaning that the policies, practices and procedures carried out by police lead to disproportionately negative outcomes for BIPOC. We cannot claim to be a free and equitable society when BIPOC are constantly at risk of brutalization at the hands of those they pay taxes to for protection.
Experiencing mental illness, homelessness, poverty and trauma are not crimes. And, if we are truly innocent before proven guilty, using a counterfeit bill should not be a death sentence.
Government-mandated collection of race-based data in policing is essential to ensure that police are held accountable for effective and equitable crime prevention.
Will defunding the police really work?
Yes. Alternative response services already exist in many parts of the world, like Oregon, California and the United Kingdom. Crises are responded to by trained, demilitarized professionals with expertise in de-escalation and compassion so there isn’t fear of further violence.
Calgary already has several (currently underfunded) programs that provide successful and cost-effective alternatives to policing, such as:
Permanent supportive housing provided by Alpha House, CJHS and other agencies funded by the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF). CHF found that this type of housing decreases interactions with police by 72%,days spent in jail by 84% and court appearances by 59%.
Did you know? The City of Edmonton has already voted to redirect $11 million of the police budget to community services.
How can I help advocate for my tax dollars to be reallocated away from police?
Support, participate and donate to defunding movements in your city.
Email or call your local politicians to ask them to:
As part of Calgary’s commitment to anti-racism, The City of Calgary is holding a public consultation on systemic racism through a meeting of the Standing Policy Committee on Community and Protective Services which is scheduled to start on July 7 and 8, 2020.
How to register to present at the meeting:
Registration is now over. Thank you for registering.
How to view the agenda:
Here it is.
How to speak to the City Council committee:
Here is a document to help you prepare for speaking to City Council.
How to listen in, but not present:
We recommend all Calgarians to watch the council meeting live on the day of.
Sharing experiences of racism can be a really difficult and scary thing to do. Here are some tips that might help you stay grounded and present as you speak:
To my fellow Calgarians,
My name is Courtney Walcott. I am a public high school teacher in Calgary. In collaboration with the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation (CCMF), we started a petition on June 19, 2020, to ask the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) to create an Anti-Racism Task Force. In just a few days, we amassed over 7,000 signatures. The petition was featured on CBC News, Global News, Red FM and others. The success of this petition is due, in no small part, to the efforts and commitment of CCMF. They continue to strive for change in the education system through anti-racism work.
CCMF released a study last year that illustrated Alberta teachers’ awareness of racism in their schools and the lack of tools to address it in their classrooms. Teachers indicated that they were fundamentally unprepared to create an inclusive curriculum due to a shortage of available resources.
Six days after we released the petition, the CBE committed to doing the work necessary to create an equitable and anti-racist environment in schools, and created a Collaboration for Anti-Racism and Equity Support Advisory Council (CBE C.A.R.E.S.). This is a great first step — as long as the commitment is followed with action. And the teachers, students, parents and citizens who signed the petition have demanded that action in the form of accountable, data-driven and immediate change.
While every call to action in our petition has not yet been satisfied — race-based data collection is required to effectively analyze and address systemic racism in our institutions — we have faith that the CBE will follow through on their promise to stakeholders.
Thank you to everyone for adding their voice to this cause by signing and sharing the petition. While the petition is officially closing, we will continue to hold our institutions accountable for dismantling systemic racism.
If you would like to get involved, the City of Calgary is holding a public forum on systemic racism on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 9:30 a.m., thanks to the hard work and determination of CCMF. Please share this information with your family and friends who have experienced racism so we can ensure their voices are heard and appropriate policy changes can be recommended. Follow CCMF on social media for further details on how you or your loved ones can participate:
Courtney Walcott and the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
Historically, the education system has been used as a tool to propagate discriminatory and prejudiced ideologies. It is well known that the ideologies and policies of the past were based on discriminatory schools of thought regarding the differences between race, gender, and class. With this as a guiding understanding, we seek to put together a task force to specifically analyze which aspects of public-school policy continue to adversely impact our minority students. The foundation of this task force will be through the collection and analysis of race-based, gender-based, and economic-based data to determine and isolate problematic structures within the public education system. It will only be through the analysis of the policies in place, the history of their creation, and the impact on minority groups within this system that meaningful change can be made.
The task force will also look at methods of building school culture and developing the necessary school-based resources to impact the ongoing learning of students and staff. This includes, but is not limited to, the development of school-based equity committees, the ongoing process of learning about and the deconstruction of implicit bias, and the development of professional learning programs that can be facilitated to all CBE staff on the subject of anti-discriminatory work, as well as locally develop an anti-discrimination course, and a review of the K-12 Alberta curriculum to address necessary changes to reflect the diversity of the Alberta student body.
To coordinate and strengthen anti-discriminatory work through data collection, analysis, and policy creation in accordance with the aim of disrupting systemic prejudice and discrimination.
1. Build a comprehensive data set based on race, gender, and economic status.
4. An analysis of curriculum programs and the impact they have on student success
6. An analysis of course enrolment based on race, gender, and economic class in an effort to identify trends and possible systemic limitations to our distribution of equitable opportunities.
7. Research the origins of current educational practices to develop a historical analysis of potential discriminatory policies that may remain in our current system.
8. Analyze trends in hiring practices to identify potential bias in the hiring process
Potential Task Force Members
The task force would ideally be a combination of educators, policy makers, and analysts from the community.
Potential collaborative opportunities exist through partnerships with our local Universities (Mount Royal University, University of Calgary) through their Public Policy, Education, History, and Sociology faculties and student base.
This task force would need to be dedicated, and not run as a secondary duty of employees from the Calgary Board of Education. To complete this work in a timely, organized, comprehensive, and effective manner, this task force should be the sole focus of its members during its initial run. Too often is this the work of a committee meeting once a week for a year, yielding nothing.
This work is challenging. It is disruptive. However, at its core, it is the work that will have long term effects that align with the goal of public education. Public education has the rare power to direct society towards a better future. This power cannot be taken for granted in light of daunting circumstances. Sacrifices and investments must be made into developing our future. Until we seek to understand the problem, we will never truly be able to fix it.
We must do this work.
Courtney Walcott, Social Studies & English Language Arts Teacher
Western Canada High School
June 10, 2020
His Worship Mayor Naheed Nenshi and The City of Calgary Councillors,
The City of Calgary is home to an ethnically diverse population. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, over 30 per cent of our population identified as a visible minority and about three per cent as Aboriginal. However, racist incidents, crimes, and constraints continue across the city. The City of Calgary municipal government has created a few policies and strategies to promote diversity and inclusion, but our great city needs concrete and ongoing anti-racism action. We want to help the City in coming up with solutions.
The Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation (CCMF) has created a petition asking the City to hold a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination. Within a week, the petition has amassed close to 70,000 signatures. We have also seen thousands of Calgarians rally in peaceful protests for Black Lives Matter and racial justice to show a societal fatigue of certain systemic occurrences and widespread desire to eradicate or improve conditions for Indigenous and racialized citizens, even during a pandemic. This consultation will allow Calgarians of all backgrounds to participate in the development of concrete solutions to improve the economic, social, cultural and political conditions of Calgary residents, particularly members of Indigenous and racialized communities. Calgary is a great city but we have the chance to build an even better one that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous.
CCMF is a not-for-profit organization of volunteers working to improve race relations in Calgary and Canada. We utilize education, technology and arts to create cultural understanding and mitigate racism. Being on the forefront of anti-racism advocacy and multiculturalism, our foundation often works with ethnic communities on projects.
We implore the City of Calgary to hold a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination and be part of this important movement. Our recommendations for the public consultation are as follows:
We want a city that is proactive, instead of reactive. While there are no magic or quick solutions to addressing systemic racism, we are confident that holding this public consultation will provide much-needed guidance to inform next steps on how the The City can play an active and vital role in improving life for all Calgarians. Thank you for your consideration and our organization would be happy to support this initiative in any way you need.
Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation
The City of Calgary is home to an ethnically diverse population. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 over 30% of its population identified as a visible minority and about 3% as Aboriginal . However racist incidents and crimes continue across the city. The municipal government, The City of Calgary, has yet to tackle the discrimination that these population face. We understand The City has created a few policies and strategies to promote diversity and inclusion, but there is no concrete action taken. We want to help The City in coming up with solutions.
Please sign this petition to be part of the movement to tackle systemic racism and discrimination in Calgary. We ask The City to hold a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination. This consultation will allow Calgarians of all backgrounds to participate in the development of concrete solutions to improve economic, social, cultural, and political conditions of Calgary residents, particularly members of Indigenous and racialized communities, and build a more inclusive equitable and prosperous city.
Please sign and share!