The Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) and Commission heard concerns from residents ranging from diversity to policy adherence at a town hall meeting on April 19.
“What I heard tonight was a group of citizens who are genuinely concerned about what is going on in the city but also are very supportive of the police service,” said Rob Van Spronsen, chair of the Lethbridge Police Commision. “For me the takeaway was that we have some issues to deal with diversity — making sure that we reach out to all members of the community and get their voices and get an understanding of what they need.”
Residents expressed concern over the lack of Indigenous representation on the police commission board. Van Spronsen said this is a concern for the city, as members are appointed. “What I heard tonight is that we have to advocate to the city to make some changes,” he said.
Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh provided a presentation before engaging with the public and answering questions. He identified budget limitations, the addiction crisis and recruiting quality members as challenges for the department.
“Recruiting is a thing that everyone is challenged with — every business, every organization but we continue to move forward on our efforts of hiring good people,” he said. ”At the end it doesn’t matter what resource challenges we are facing. We make sure that our frontline teams are adequately resourced to serve the 911 calls coming in.”
Mehdizadeh said the majority of calls are for disturbance/nuisance and LPS responded to about 36,000 calls in 2021. “A large number of these calls are not even police related but people want us, we show up and we try to deal with it the best we can with what we have,” Mehdizadeh said.
A priority for Mehdizadeh is working with residents to help prevent crime. He said many break and enter calls are the result of unlocked doors.
“When crime is easy to do, people are going to do it and more people are going to do it,” he said. “So if we make our city a more harsh environment to commit crime, the word gets around really quickly and that’s a partnership that I am always talking to our community about. It’s not only what the police do, it is what we do together.”
Mehdizadeh said LPS has been working to tighten policy since he became chief in 2020.
“I am not here to change the past — I cannot do that. I can just look at what we are doing today and moving forward,” he said. “All the stuff that the crowd has mentioned — it’s been under review and we have made changes to them in the last year and a half.”