What's the true cost of a pre-election police blitz?

The UCP’s big play over the past two weeks to shift attention away from Premier Danielle Smith’s involvement with COVID scofflaw and extremist pastor Artur Pawlowski has been to pivot towards policing.

The pivot hasn’t stopped reporters from asking about the Pawlowski matter, the pitch is full of misleading details, and it’s a campaign stunt that will cost far more than the $15 million that public safety minister Mike Ellis estimates will be spent on the new officers.

Federal conservative Pierre Poilievre was in Edmonton Thursday to back up the UCP message, arguing as the UCP do that crime and social disorder are rising in Canada because of “woke” policies from the federal Liberals and provincial NDP, particularly changes that Poilievre claims the Liberals made to the bail system.

A couple of problems with that: the changes to the bail system that Poilievre blames were enacted in 2019, but statistics show that the upwards trend in crime began in 2017; and the four provinces most impacted are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C.—three of which have conservative governments, not NDP governments.

But that’s enough about Pierre. I’m sure most of you already know that when someone starts moaning about woke this and woke that, there’s nothing of real substance to be heard.

The Premier herself is skipping getting bogged down in details and sticking to a purely emotional message. “We’re going to break the back of crime,” Smith promised on social media last week, presumably while wearing a Bane mask at the computer.

A hundred extra police officers across Edmonton and Calgary aren’t likely to break the back of crime itself. Tackling the social forces that lead into crime—particularly poverty—might, but that’s not what the Smith administration is about.

Individual Albertans struggling with poverty, mental health, and drug abuse, on the other hand? EPS and CPS have certainly demonstrated a willingness to tackle and break backs there. Like CPS Constable Alex Dunn, who just got a slap on the wrist in February for brutalizing a handcuffed woman in his custody.

The $15 million price tag for the police itself is only a fraction of the true cost that Smith’s pre-election police blitz stunt will inflict on Alberta. You only have to look over the Rockies, where Vancouver’s newly-elected and pro-policing mayor Ken Sim is presently running a blitz of his own, to see how things are about to play out.

In Edmonton, shortly after Smith’s announcement, EPS began tearing down the tents of unhoused people who were sheltering near the Hope Mission and Bissel Centre.

A recently published study from the American Medical Association argues that sending police out to roust the poor literally kills people.

“Involuntary displacement is estimated to worsen overdose and hospitalizations, decrease initiations of medications for opioid use disorder, and contribute to deaths among people experiencing homelessness who inject drugs,” the researchers conclude.

That’s the true cost of this cynical boots-on-neck campaigning by the Tories. And grimly, I don’t think we’ll ever see a full account of it.


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