July 24th, 2024

Police Commission presents 2024 annual plan

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 26, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

The Lethbridge Police Commission recently presented its 2023 update and 2024 annual plan to the City of Lethbridge Standing Policy Committee.
Key concerns from councillors included recruitment, retention, political policies and downtown safety.
When it comes to hiring and maintaining officers, councillor John Middleton-Hope, says this is a serious issue plaguing many agencies across Canada.
“Recruiting and retention, big issue,” said Middleton-Hope. “The City has funded substantially… to the police service, we continue to provide supports to the police service… What is our net gain overall?”
In response to this concern, Jason Walper, LPS inspector, support services, says the police have seen several retirements over the past year and a half.
“In 2023 we had six retirements, so far this year we’ve had three retirements,” said Walper.
On the flip side, Walper gave encouragement over the recent number of recruits, affording LPS an overall net gain in total number of officers despite the recent retirements.
“We had a net gain of three in 2023 for police officers,” said Walper. “Plus 18 for (2024) thus far.”
He says there is also a chance LPS will see additional officers bolstering their ranks before the new year rings in.
In 2023 the LPS received over $48 million in revenue and spent all but $216,000. For 2024, LPS is budgeting just north of $50 million with an equal expenditure.
The new budget sees LPS receive 91 per cent of its funding from Lethbridge taxpayers. Last year, the municipal contribution was 88 per cent.
Beyond funding, however, councillor Belinda Crowson had other concerns. “There are people in the community concerned that, in the past, some members of the police may have done things that were inappropriate,” said Crowson.
Chief of police, Shahin Mehdizadeh, says this issue is one that really happened prior to his service, but it has a straightforward policy nevertheless.
“This pre-dates me, but there is a clear Police Act and regulations that speaks to misconduct and when people have been found in violation of that, they have been disciplined, they have been sanctioned through a proper course of action,” said Mehdizadeh.
“As chief of police, the highest level of sanction I can give someone is 80 hours of pay. Anything beyond that has to go to a hearing.”
Councillor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel questioned Mehdizadeh on what the LPS had in store for the downtown core this year.
“Can you speak to some of the initiatives that LPS has set out as its priorities, and some of the actions that LPS has undertaken in taking care of our downtown core?”
Mehdizadeh says officers have struggled to maintain their strength downtown because of high attrition rates.
“Our downtown is an extremely important part of our city and we want to make sure people feel safe in it,” said Mehdizadeh.
“So, due to our resourcing issues last year, we had to actually reduce the number of officers in certain areas.”
He says the downtown unit was one of the affected units by this reduction. However, the previously indicated net gain in ranks will give them a chance to rebuild their weakened units.
“With the recruitment that we have, that’s the number one priority for us. So, as new officers are joining the teams, we are going to release employees to actually join these critical teams.”
As part of the plan presented to the SPC, the police commission said in its annual plan that residents of Lethbridge have three major concerns.
“Residents’ top three policing priorities are property crime, drug crime and crime against persons along with greater efforts focused on crime prevention and community visibility.”
Other goals include reducing crime rates, increasing citizen perceptions of safety, increasing police visibility as well as enhancing overall employee satisfaction.

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