First Beacons of Hope pays tribute to work done by police services in Calgary – Calgary Herald

First Beacons of Hope pays tribute to work done by police services in Calgary – Calgary Herald

‘This isn’t just a one-and-done thing. This is something that we always need. And we hope we inspire other cities to do something similar as well’
A community event organized to celebrate all members of the Calgary Police Service was held for the first time on Saturday.

Crowds of people gathered at the Field of Crosses location on Memorial Drive for the first Beacons of Hope event in the city. The event showcased food trucks, live music, interactive displays and other activities throughout the day, with police members and their families in attendance.

The idea behind Beacons of Hope is to light one lantern for each serving member of the Calgary Police Service, with 3,000 lanterns illuminated by the end of the night. The lanterns are meant to signify “hope in times of darkness,” according to the event’s website.

Jackson McDonough, Beacons of Hope co-founder, said he created the event with Murray McCann to lift the spirits of police officers.

“It’s been a tough few years for a lot of people, our Calgary police service members included. They’re in our communities every single day, getting in front of difficult situations and placing themselves in a position to keep our city safe,” McDonough said.

“I’m really honoured that we get to bring a group of Calgarians together and show the community how much the Calgary Police Service means to us.”

He said he is looking forward to growing the event in the years to come.

“This isn’t just a one-and-done thing. This is something that we always need. And we hope we inspire other cities to do something similar as well.”

The event was organized during a time when morale among police officers in Calgary has been low. According to a 2021 CPS employee engagement report, 82 per cent of members disagreed with the statement “morale at CPS is good.”

Chief Constable Mark Neufeld said the results of the engagement survey were “striking.”

“One of the things that was causing that was the negative discourse in the public, around the profession of policing. Lots of very valid discussion about places where we can improve, places where we can build on some of the social justice issues and the equity issues,” Neufeld said.

He spoke about the service reaching out to Black and Indigenous communities to improve connections, and a commitment to anti-racism initiatives within the force. The police service is also looking at improving crisis response by bringing in other services, he said.

At the same time, police officers are facing overwhelming workloads. Members are responding to more than 1,200 calls in the city a day while facing staffing shortages, Neufeld said. High-profile cases, like the death of Angela McKenzie earlier this week, add greater pressure on officers.

“We’re facing significant challenges in our city, whether it be opioid overdoses, whether it be mental health and addiction and poverty, the increasing numbers of demonstrations and protests that we’ve seen,” he said.

“The demands that have required the police to respond on behalf of community are huge. And yet at the same time, we’re having these discussions about whether there’s any value.”

The Beacons of Hope event is an opportunity to be able to demonstrate the support and appreciation Calgarians have for the police service, and a chance for officers to see it themselves, Neufeld said. Along with the in-person event, Calgarians can also share messages of appreciation through the Beacons of Hope website to CPS officers.

“To see the number of people that are coming through, to see the interactions and the smiles with the police officers, I know that it’s having a positive impact,” he said.

“This is an opportunity to be seen and to feel valued, and to know how much Calgarians encourage and support. And I think it means a lot.”

Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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