Edmonton police chief pledges change to naming policy of homicide victims

Edmonton’s new police chief says he plans to make changes to the current policy of naming homicide victims.

In an on-the-record session with the media on Monday, Dale McFee said he will announce the policy change at the June meeting of the Edmonton Police Commission.

During his first month on the job, McFee hired the Saskatchewan-based Community Safety Knowledge Alliance to conduct a review of the current policy.

“We’ve got the report back,” said McFee, who was sworn in as chief on Feb. 1. “We’re actually working on the report right now. There are a few things that stick out — the right to know versus the right to privacy. I think we can find a good ground there.”

The chief said he wants to consider family members of homicide victims in deciding on a new approach, and to develop a more consistent policy.

There have been 10 homicides so far this year in Edmonton. Police have refused to release the names of four victims, saying in each case there was no investigative reason to do so.

“We are going to do something differently that’s consistent for sure,” McFee said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be one way totally or the other. But it won’t be the same as it looks today.”

‘We need to make sure we’re honest’

McFee tackled a number of topics in a wide-ranging conversation. He was asked if his approach to police discipline is different from Rod Knecht’s, his predecessor, who was known to take a hard-line approach.

“I’m a big believer in discipline,” McFee said. “But I’m a big believer in proportionate discipline. To me, discipline is about balance. It’s balancing the right to take risks and to protect society.”

The chief said honesty is a “non-negotiable” trait necessary for police officers.

“We need to make sure we’re honest. If we make a mistake, we own up, we fess up and we move on.”

Work smarter, not faster

McFee and his team have been crunching numbers for months. The chief said he has already done some internal restructuring and has appointed a team of inspectors and executive directors to conduct a six-month overview. He promises changes are on the way.

“I think what we really are trying to bring is innovation back into community safety,” McFee said. “I think we’ve lost a little bit of that.”

He noted that 92.7 per cent of calls for service are the lowest priority type. That represents an opportunity, he said, to “work smarter, not faster” toward a drop in low-priority calls that he referred to as social issues.

“Right now, all we’ve been doing is putting more people on the street to respond quicker, and to get to more places quicker,” he said. “And our crime rate has been second highest in the country for 10 years. I think we need to try a couple things different.”

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