Edmonton police commission updating public input policy, how commissioners request info

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The Edmonton Police Commission is changing the way the public gives input during meetings and how commissioners can request information from the police.

The city’s police oversight body on Thursday reviewed a new policy that would add some new limits on how people can participate, raising questions from commissioners and concerns from members of the public who attended. The commission ultimately decided the strategy needed more work and sent it back for further study and to gather public input. The meeting was virtual-only for the second time in a row because of apparent security concerns.

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The policy, as presented, would have prevented the public from speaking on a topic that has already been presented by a person or a group within the past six months, and from making allegations against a particular commissioner or employee of the commission, or Edmonton Police Service (EPS). Members of the public would need to register to speak by noon one business day prior to the meeting and would not be permitted to “make unreasonable or unfounded statements or demands, or otherwise misuse the privilege of addressing the commission.”

Commissioners also approved a new procedure that puts some limitations around how they can request information from the police outside meetings.

Commission chairman John McDougall told Postmedia Thursday the updates to the public participation policy are meant to make sure meetings are run in an effective and orderly way and to give Edmontonians clarity around what is expected of them.

“The police commission values input on policing, which is a reason why we have the opportunity for the public to speak at all of our public meetings. The policy revisions we’re looking at are not intended to remove public speakers from our agenda or limit their participation in any way,” he said. “The changes we’re looking at are designed to preserve and protect the ability of the commission to perform its function in a civil and orderly manner so that the guests feel comfortable at our meetings.”

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The commission has long had the ability to remove a person deemed disruptive, and speaking about a particular police officer’s conduct or an ongoing investigation has not been allowed.

But Katy Ingraham, who signed up as a public speaker, told commissioners that some of the proposed changes are “concerning” and that it needs to “go back to the drawing board.” She also took issue with the proposed rules about making comments about commissioners, or employees of the commission or police.

New rules, such as requiring speakers to register a day in advance will “make it more difficult for you to receive input from the public,” she said.

“I do believe that this is a direct result of the increase in public input that you’re receiving and that you just don’t like it,” Ingraham said. “This, to me, feels like intimidation, and that this commission doesn’t like that the behaviour that they have engaged in outside of this commission that directly impacts the commission, they don’t like that being spoken in public.

“What are you trying to accomplish here? Do you want public input? Do you want to be a civilian oversight body? Or do you just want to be the rubber stamp for the Edmonton Police Service? Because that’s certainly what it feels like.”

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Commissioner inquiries

A new policy formalizing how information is requested from police was also approved.

Commissioners who want information from police outside a meeting must now direct their requests through the executive director of the commission, Matthew Barker, who will determine whether that information is appropriate given the commission’s legal mandate to ask, and if answering it is worth the time it will take to research, among other requirements.

Inquiries that are approve will be listed publicly and tracked showing when the information will be released.

Barker said this is about being efficient, as there more questions from commissioners to the police service in recent years. This process, he said, will ensure “we can make the most efficient use of the (EPS)’ time, and my time, and the commission is trying to get those answered in the fastest and best way possible.”

Tracking queries publicly will improve transparency to the public, he said, and commissioners can contest his ruling and make an inquiry during the commission meeting.

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