Police chiefs want 'urgent' meeting with premiers to address rising violent crime

Police chiefs and premiers alike hold grave concerns over the safety of first responders, with nine officers dying while on duty in the past six months.

Police chiefs want 'urgent' meeting with premiers to address rising violent crime
Rebel News
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The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) urgently requested a meeting with the premiers to discuss how best to protect Canadians and police officers from rising violent crime, according to the letter obtained by Global News.

Association President Chief Danny Smyth wrote Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, the chair of the Council of the Federation, which represents all 13 premiers.

"In the last six months, we have lost nine officers — eight of them to random violence," he writes. "The number of murders of police officers has resulted in stark comparisons with countries like the United States, to which we have never before found reason to compare."

"There is no question that the degradation of discourse around policing and police funding, the lack of accountability in our justice system, and the significant increase in drug, gang, and gun violence have all escalated the danger for our profession."

Notably, two Edmonton police officers died on March 16 while responding to a domestic disturbance at a Northwest apartment complex. A young male gunned both officers down, who died on their way to receive medical attention at a nearby hospital.

Const. Brett Ryan, 30, a former paramedic, lived just west of Edmonton in Spruce Grove with his wife, who is expecting their first child.

Const. Travis Jordan, 35, is from Nova Scotia and is remembered as a kind officer who went above and beyond in the line of duty.

On March 27, 20-year veteran Sgt. Maureen Breau of the Quebec provincial police force died from a fatal stabbing when she tried to arrest a suspect in Louiseville for uttering threats. 

Two police officers arrested Brouillard Lessard, 35, and at the time of reading his rights, he reportedly seized a long knife and attacked Breau, who then fell from a balcony.

Reports indicate that at least half-a-dozen other officers have died while on duty since September 2022, including 28-year-old OPP Const. Grzegorz Pierzchała and Const. Jeffrey Northrop, 55 last year.

Smyth attributes their passing to a recent spike in violent crime partly intensified by mental health issues. He said police nationwide need a balanced approach to dealing with offenders.

According to court documents, Lessard faced charges for several violent crimes over the past decade for which he was found not criminally responsible.

In 2013, he pleaded not guilty to threatening to cause death and harm. Between 2017 and 2018, he pleaded not guilty to two assaults and uttered death threats.

However, in 2022, he pleaded guilty to assault and received two years probation and 200 hours of community service.

Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee also linked addictions and mental health issues to the recent uptick in crime. In contrast, former Winnipeg police chief Devon Clunis claimed the profession is more dangerous today than before.

"The one time in my career I had an individual with a loaded gun, [he] dropped it, and he ran," said Clunis. "That would not be happening today. Our officers are consistently facing that level of threat."

Officers also expressed concern that they arrested violent offenders only to see them walk out on bail. The chiefs want to see meaningful police reform.

The proposed changes would reverse the onus for repeat violent offenders seeking bail, including crimes involving knives and bear spray while making changes related to violent crimes with firearms.

Ottawa pledged reform as early as this session of Parliament, but Justice Minister David Lametti has yet to confirm a date.

"We have a broad consensus on a path forward," he said, claiming reforms would address the challenges of repeat violent offenders.

"Bail is a constitutional right, but it is not absolute. Our laws are clear that bail can be denied when there is just cause necessary for the public's safety or to maintain the public's confidence in the administration of justice." 

Stefanson has since sent a letter to the other premiers requesting a meeting

"We've seen a significant number of homicides in our police forces across the country," said Stefanson. "We don't want to see that continue. We need to make sure we're taking action."

According to the Association President, the politicization of policing is a pressing issue nationwide.

"The lack of coordination and integration of appropriate solutions and a political tendency to endorse one-off solutions contains more risk than a promise," added Smyth.

"Policing is at a crossroads in our nation. The stresses and dangers of the job, combined with the intense politicization of policing that we've witnessed at every level, threaten the integrity and trust in our profession and our ability to safely and ethically ensure public safety."

On March 30, Officials released the final report on the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting, revealing systemic issues within the RCMP amid calls for widespread change.

The 3,000-page report touched on the police response to the mass casualty incident that killed 22 people, including the killer's access to firearms, the role of gender-based violence and reinventing the national alert system. 

It made a blunt call to re-examine the role of the federal police force in maintaining community safety after numerous RCMP failures to prevent, respond, and react in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

The report also called on the federal public safety minister to commission an in-depth, external and independent review of the RCMP.

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