‘System isn’t geared to help us’: Head of Bear Clan Patrol not sure about Calgary’s cut to police service

Calgary’s Bear Clan Patrol has only been around for about a year – but Gitz Derange says they’ve already grown a strong relationship with the community – and police.

“They know who we are and what we do and they’re really supportive of us,” said Derange who heads up the Calgary Bear Clan Patrol. “When they had that drug bust the other week, we were the first people they called up for us to do more patrols.”

On Nov. 4, Calgary city council voted to transfer $20 million from the police budget to social programs and outreach services to reduce mental health calls to the department and add supports for people with addictions.

It’s not a popular move with everyone.

John Orr, president of the Calgary Police Association issued a statement saying that cutting an already tight budget can do more harm than good.

“We are already stretched thin and our staffing numbers are inadequate to provide the level of service Calgarians deserve and respect,” he said.

Derange isn’t exactly clear on how the cut will affect the Indigenous community in Calgary.

“It is scary because we really don’t know where it will take us, we can prepare for the worst,” he said. “The system isn’t geared to help us and that’s the sad reality.

“But as we enter into these new waters there is potential for this to call apart but there is potential for growth.”

Derange says regardless of what happens, the Bear Clan Patrol hopes to expand support to the community by getting its members First Aid training and creating more programs for things like food security.

Some are calling city council’s decision to shift the police budget similar to calls to “defund” police.

Those calls came in the wake of the death of George Floyd, 48, a Black man in Minneapolis. Video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck while Floyd was on the ground.

Floyd’s death launched a worldwide movement to change how police interact with the public.

In Canada there have been a number of incidents where police have been scrutinized for their actions including two shooting deaths in New Brunswick, a chief who was beaten in Alberta by two Mounties, and the RCMP in Nunavut are being investigated for a number of incidents where members of the public have either died, or were questionably handled by police.

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