The city of Lethbridge will ask the province to provide sheriff resources to help manage encampments this spring. A motion from Councillor John Middleton-Hope carried 6-2 at council’s April 4 meeting and the city will send a letter to public safety minister Mike Ellis requesting the resources for six months, starting in May.
“This request is actually a fulsome examination of the process the minister of public safety has initiated by identifying that there are available sheriffs to drop into the cities of Edmonton and Calgary,” Middleton-Hope said. “We are looking for a solution to help the police service and our community better manage encampments this summer. Last summer, we were resource poor.”
Councillor Belinda Crowson made a motion to refer the letter to the police commission so a full discussion could be had before moving forward. She said she believes there would be a better chance of success in getting resources from the province if the commission and police service supported it.
“I will be voting against this both as a member of the police commission and a member of council. I do not believe this is the appropriate way to move forward, there are other things that can be done,” Crowson said.
Councillor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel questioned Middleton-Hope on his correspondence with the Lethbridge Police Service and commission prior to bringing the motion forward.
“I have had an in camera discussion with the chief — it was at another event. I questioned him in regards to the use of sheriffs, he provided his opinion,” Middleton-Hope said. “He identified some potential challenges, as I have expressed and those challenges are if the sheriffs come to the city of Lethbridge and are dropped into the middle of the city, there may be some problems in terms of support. He did not have any positions in regards to the encampments.”
The referral motion failed, with Crowson, Schmidt-Rempel and Councillor Jeff Carlson in favour. Carlson brought forward an amendment to the original motion to copy the police commission into the letter to the minister and request input from the commission. He said though he preferred a referral, he would support the motion.
Carlson later questioned why the drafted letter was confidential and not part of the public agenda, and after an in camera session, voted against the amended motion.
Middleton-Hope said the letter is only asking for the resources and how they will be organized will be dealt with later, if they are provided.
“This is not to ignore the police commission or the chief of police or anybody else, this is a parallel line of support that we are asking the appropriate minister for additional resources, plain and simple,” Middleton-Hope said.
Minister Mike Ellis was part of an open house on public safety in Lethbridge on April 4 and Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen, in the meeting, said he would like to hand deliver the request to him.