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LPS responds to petition calling for The Watch to be defunded

June 8, 2020

People are calling for The Watch, a volunteer program, and extension of the Police Service in Lethbridge to lose all of its funding. An online petition has been circulating, with hundreds of signatures. BCN's Ainsley O'Riley reports.

The petition, which has more than 2,000 online signatures states that the volunteer program fails to help the unhoused population, but instead aims to "make white people feel less threatened downtown".  The Watch Manager, Jeff Cove says that he’s actually seen the program save lives, and help our city's most vulnerable. 

"We've stopped and done a wellness check on somebody who's not responsive in the park and found out in fact that they're suffering from an opioid crisis. Three lives were saved by Watch people this month alone".

Rebecca Runions, the woman who started the petition declined to speak with Bridge City News at this time. On Monday afternoon, BCN's Ainsley O'Riley spoke with a group of homeless Indigenous youth about their experiences with The Watch.

"I think it is a racist practice. (When we're) at the convenience stores they chase us away, but (with the) caucasian people, they don't get chased away," says Leland Bastien.

The program will be reviewed by Lethbridge City Council in November, and has a budget of $1.2 million over two years. Cove invites residents to ask questions in order to be fully informed.

"I get how it can look. People see you doing something and then they wonder why you are doing it. People tend not to want to ask questions. I wish they'd ask more questions," adds Cove.