Calgarians want to hear more from the Calgary Police Service (CPS) on how they keep the city safe.

Illumina Research Partners conducted research with two groups in Calgary, those that trust CPS, and those who do not. This was done with the intention of learning how communication from the police impacts public trust, and how CPS can better meet the communication needs of Calgarians.

The report was delivered to the Calgary Police Commission at a meeting on June 28.

Transparent and consistent communication around police misconduct, neighborhood-level communication about crime and safety, and how the CPS is working with community partners to better help people in crisis were the main points of the study.

“Public trust in the Calgary Police Service, while still quite high, has been declining recently,” said Commission Chair Shawn Cornett in a prepared media release.

“We have been working for several years on the police reforms that Calgarians told us will improve trust. Both our Commission and CPS wanted to build on this work by also looking at ways police communications can help rebuild trust.”

The public perception of The Calgary Service has taken multiple hits over the past few years.

In 2022 the Calgary Police Commission Citizen Satisfaction Survey results showed a sharp decline in confidence in police and city safety compared with 2020 results.

The survey had only 85 per cent of Calgarians feeling like the city was safe. This was a nine per cent decline compared to 2020.

In 2020, the Calgary Police Service came under fire after members of marginalized communities began to speak up on alleged racially motivated attacks at the hands of CPS members.

This spurred the Defund2Fund campaign, which called on city council to use money from the police budget to fund institutions better equipped to handle particular situations.

Building trust

Yvonne Brouwers, President and CEO of Illumina Research Partners, and Angela Storozuk, Vice President, held a briefing Wednesday afternoon to discuss some of the findings in their research.

“We wanted to gather in-depth understanding of what Calgarians want to hear from CPS and the best channels to communicate to them,” Storozuk said.

In early 2023, the Calgary Police Service sought out ways to improve public perception after seeing a significant decline in CPS trust, dropping from 85 per cent in 2020 to 77 per cent in 2022.

Qualitative research was conducted with a focus on the impact of communications and transparency on trust in CPS.

“We wanted to understand in this qualitative research this year, is there a difference in the communication needs for people who trust CPS and those who don’t trust. We talked to a diverse group of participants from a whole mix of backgrounds,” Storozuk said.

“We had the new immigrants to Calgary within the past five years, we had a mix of people who self-identified as different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, we had some LGBTQA+ class citizens, and we also had a mix of citizens who had contact with CPS in the past year and those who have not.”

In the study, it was found that “Participants who do not trust CPS expressed an openness to trusting CPS again, but it will take a consistent, long-term effort by CPS in their interactions, communications, and community collaboration.”

Comments in the study highlighted both the positive and negative perspectives toward Calgary police.

Positive: “I feel like I see them a lot. I don’t ever feel like if something went terribly wrong that they’re far away, and I think that makes me feel safe.”

Negative: “But no matter what, how I’ve seen the police act here in this city, just in the last, like 2 or 3 years, is really horrible.”

Participants in the study also expressed the need to improve safety and police presence in Calgary’s high-crime areas.

Racial misperceptions and stereotypes, drugs, gangs, violent crimes, youth crimes, crime at night, the downtown and transit/CTtrain area, slow response times, and CPS being inadequately staffed were areas of concern with the participants of the study.

CTrain safety has been a hot topic in 2023, with attacks happening at or near CTrain platforms routinely making the news.

“There were violent crimes that happened downtown and at the CTrain in the couple of months prior to the focus groups, and there was also an announcement by the City of Calgary about actions to make transit safer,” Storozuk said

“We really heard this reflected in the focus groups this year where participants expressed concerns related to safety in the downtown and on the transit system.”

Improving communication

The participants in the study underlined three main points for improving communication. They wanted the message quick and easy to understand, build in the human element and extend reach through a wider variety of channels.

Making the message easier to understand is exactly like it sounds, people are busy, and they don’t have time to take in big pieces of information, Storozuk said.

“Use plain language, avoid policing jargon, and visualize the content so they can see what you were trying to say. They shared that posters and one-page infographics are quick and easy ways to help them get the messages,” Storozuk said.

Participants claimed that improving the human element of CPS would include CPS becoming more approachable, personable, and genuine.

“One idea suggested by participants was to partner with a third party, reputable, civilian or citizen to help be the bridge between the police and the community so that Calgarians know where they can go to get trustworthy information on crime, safety, and policing in Calgary Storozuk said.

Lastly increasing the reach of communications involved going past traditional news outlets.

“Currently, news through TV, radio, newspaper, and social media are the primary channels through which they’re hearing about crime and safety in Calgary, but they had suggestions to increase the reach,” Storozuk said.

“Having things like posters or infographics at public places such as libraries, gyms, recreational centers, the transit station, paper flyers, maybe weekly or bi-weekly podcasts was another idea.”

Report an Error or Typo