Alberta establishes independent agency under Police Amendment Act to improve police oversight

It's the province's first major update to the Police Act in 34 years

Alberta establishes independent agency under Police Amendment Act to improve police oversight

The Alberta Government has tabled legislation to improve public confidence in the justice system by ensuring police are no longer behind their own investigations.

If passed, the Police Amendment Act will establish an independent agency, the Police Review Commission, to handle complaints involving any death and serious injury connected to law enforcement.

Each complaint will be categorized as part of a framework establishing how the new oversight agency will triage them. However, doing so would also require expanding the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) mandate to include cases with peace officers employed by the province.

According to the release, the proposal marks the first major overhaul of the Police Act in 34 years, one that President of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) Mark Neufeld called “long overdue.”

The proposal was crafted in response to a public survey on law enforcement with 15,000 respondents and an extensive stakeholder engagement with 200 organizations representing law enforcement, health and social services sectors, municipalities, Indigenous organizations and diverse communities.

The government says proposed reforms will also reimagine police as a responsive extension of the community with a more proactive than reactive approach to crime. Instead of enforcement, the police will work with partner organizations to support addiction treatment, housing, and employment.

It would also create more public oversight by establishing formal civilian bodies in all Alberta jurisdictions policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), responding to a long-standing desire from those communities for a stronger role in setting policing priorities.

“Police should have a strong connection to their community, functioning as a police service that is an extension of the people it serves rather than a strong arm of the government,” Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis said. “This first major update to the Police Act in generations is a blueprint for building police services in Alberta that embody that principle, with reforms that strengthen accountability, give communities more input and promote diversity.”

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