EDMONTON – It’s been a chaotic year for the Edmonton Police Service and its leader, Chief Rod Knecht. Officers saw spikes in crime rates, including a startling increase in domestic violence. They saw first-hand the effects of an economic slump. The service also dealt with the devastating death of one of its own; Const. Daniel Woodall became the first EPS officer killed in the line of duty since 1990.
“Just a really busy year. We started the year off with tragedy; we had the eight murders… We didn’t expect it to be this busy.”
Knecht said the EPS is “collectively disappointed” about how long it’s taking officers to respond to calls.
READ MORE: It could take 2 days for police to respond to a B&E in Edmonton
“We’re under resourced and over taxed this year.”
Watch Below: Chief Knecht talks about the steep increase in calls that police have had to deal with in 2015 and how he thinks the economic slow down has contributed to the rise in crime.
The Edmonton Police Association asked City Council for an additional 82 positions, but – given the current economic constraints – council was unable to grant that request.
“Going from 82 down to approximately 10? Yeah, we’re not going to be able to do some of things we had planned,” said Knecht.
He added domestic violence related calls are up more than 17 per cent from last year.
Watch Below: Chief Rod Knecht talks about being frustrated with a budget shortfall, the rise in domestic violence in Edmonton and getting ready for the opening of the Ice District.
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Terwillegar park named in honour of fallen Edmonton Const. Daniel Woodall
Knecht expressed disappointment that the EPS hasn’t been able to consistently meet its seven-minute priority one response time goal.
“When someone calls 911, they expect an officer to show up… We’re challenged in that area right now.”
He described officers as “tired” and the close loss of Woodall’s death hit them all hard.
“Woodall was a big hit, a huge hit,” said Knecht, adding it hurt the EPS and the larger Edmonton community.
However, he said everyone has been bolstered by the public’s support.
Watch Below: Knecht talks about failing to respond to calls quickly, cuts and changes that will be made in 2016 and how support from the community boosted morale in the wake of Const. Woodall’s death.
Knecht remembers June 8, 2015 vividly. In fact, it’s in his mind daily.
READ MORE: Edmonton police Const. Daniel Woodall, 35, killed in west-end shooting
He went home sick from work early that day and was laying on his couch when he got a call.
“I took the phone and was briefed that we had a member down… It was confirmed that we had at least one member dead.”
Watch Below: Chief Knecht talks about the day Const. Daniel Woodall was killed from his own point of view. He also talks about how the Woodall family is doing and how the force is coping six months later.
Two-way communication between police and the community is a huge priority for Knecht. That will become increasingly important as the EPS looks at priorities in a tougher economic time.
What’s been a consistent priority for residents?
“I think every year since I’ve been chief, traffic has been the number one priority for Edmontonians.”
Watch Below: Chief Rod Knecht talks about the price of business, investing money in paramedics and the volume of mental health calls in the city.
What’s next for Chief Knecht?
He is holding firm to his goal of seeing Edmonton become the safest city in Canada.
The chief also said he’s seen more engagement and support from the public this year than ever before. People are stepping in to help police, to call with tips, even support police in catching suspects. That support is getting officers through.
“We’re thankful to Edmontonians for that,” he said.
Watch Below: Chief Rod Knecht talks about retiring in two years and the legacy he wants to leave.