Two surveys of Calgarians’ confidence in the police have produced results that are widely divergent.

The first survey, done in fall 2016 by Mainstreet Research, finds the approval rating for Calgary police sitting at 39 per cent.

The second survey, conducted by the Calgary Police Commission in 2016, finds 94 per cent of respondents are confident in the police service, but the number of people who said they were very confident declined over the past few years.   

Minority Relationships with Police

In Calgary, different minority groups are still wary of the police service. Communities such as LGBTQ+ people have had a negative history with the police.

“Historically speaking, the community has not been protected by police,” said Michael Cacace, the service co-ordinator at Calgary Outlink, a group that provides peer support, resources, and information to the LGBTQ+ community.

“The LGBTQ community has had a really long history with the police. Homosexuality was illegal until not that long ago.”

Steps Being Taken

However, the Calgary Police Service is constantly working to have a positive relationship with the LGBTQ+ community through the Sexuality and Gender Diversity Chief’s Advisory Board, whose purpose is to act as a liaison between the CPS and different LGBTQ+ communities in Calgary.

Cacace believes more can be done by the police.

“The reality is that a lot of members of the community still experience oppression by police. Even if it doesn’t look the same as it used to, the reality is that every member of society has their own bias and their own perception, so it’s impossible to say that every single member of the Calgary Police is inclusive in their practice,” Cacace said.

However, Cacace does appreciate the steps that are being taken.

“I do think there definitely is truth in both sides. There is a lot of trauma that still happens at the hands of police towards LGBTQ folks, and the police are making an attempt to be more inclusive, but I think the question is how are we going about doing that” said Cacace  

The Calgary Police Commission, a body that oversees CPS, also has ways to help foster a strong community and provide a place for feedback.

Photo by Ken Van De Walle

“The commission does do a number of outreach activities. That includes one of the big events that the commission does every year is a community dinner, and that brings together about 350 community representatives from community associations as well as diversity groups,” says Lori DeLuca, the Communications and Policy Director for the CPC.  

According to DeLuca, the dinner provides a safe forum where representatives from different organizations can discuss different community priorities and topics.

“We always hear every year from community members about their perceptions of CPS, and one of the biggest things that people say is how much they value CPS’ community outreach activities,” she said.

Survey Results

The CPC does a yearly survey of citizens’ perception on the police, with the results available on their website.  

The CPC survey was conducted between June 28 and Aug 18, 2016. Phone interviews roughly 17 minutes long were conducted with 1,000 Calgarians aged 18 or older. The results found that Calgarians had a positive outlook on their police force, with 95 per cent of the respondents saying this is a safe city to live in. 94 per cent said they are satisfied with the CPS.

“The reality is that a lot of members of the community still experience oppression by police. Even if it doesn’t look the same as it used to.” Michael Cacace, service co-ordinator at Calgary Outlink

 “The reality is that a lot of members of the community still experience oppression by police. Even if it doesn’t look the same as it used to.”

The survey conducted by Mainstreet Research was done on Sept 7, 2016. They surveyed a random group of 823 residents using both landlines and cell phones. This survey found that 48 per cent of Calgarians disapproved of CPS performance. They also found that only 58 per cent of people believed they would be treated fairly if they were the subject of an investigation.

The vice-chair of the CPC, Brian Thiessen, spoke about the differences between the two reports in an interview with Global News.

“What we’re looking for is, how can we learn from the Mainstreet poll and the survey that we’ve conducted. The message we got from both was the same – citizens of Calgary are trending downwards in their confidence in the Calgary Police Service and we need to address that concern.”

kvandewalle@cjournal.ca

Editor: Andrea Fulton | afulton@cjournal.ca