Canadian Security Magazine

Calgary Transit: A culture of change

By Vikram Kulkarni   

News Transportation

The Public Safety and Enforcement Section (PS&E) is an integral part of the multi-divisional environment of operations at Calgary Transit. In 1981, Calgary Transit opened the first leg of its Light Rail System called the C-Train with the PS&E section, then called “Protective Services,” as its primary enforcement agency.

This agency has evolved from activities of a security department to responsibilities of a Special Constable under the Alberta Police Act and, since 2007, Peace Officers under the Peace Officer Act.

As part of the enforcement strategy, the PS&E section currently has a team of 87 full-time members, including 77 full-time Calgary Transit Peace Officers (CTPOs), who provide dedicated safety and security services to all Calgary Transit properties and assets. Through providing customer safety, CTPOs also supplement the role of the Calgary Police Service (CPS), in terms of community safety.

The Alberta Minister of Public Security and the Solicitor General administer the peace officer program and issue appointments to CTPOs. The appointments include provincial statutory authority to enforce liquor laws under the Gaming and Liquor Act (GLA), non-moving violations in relation to the Traffic Safety Act (TSA) and the Trespass to Premises Act and Petty Trespass Act. In addition, Peace Officers are appointed as “Bylaw Enforcement Officers” under the Municipal Government Act of Alberta. This addition allows CTPOs to enforce municipal bylaws, although most of the enforcement is focused on transit property.

During the past three years in particular, the PS&E has undergone an overwhelming transformation in leadership and direction. The wisdom of council members in the City of Calgary, along with input from CPS and the expertise of Calgary Transit’s Senior Management Team (SMT), has initiated this change.


In early 2008, the murder of a woman near a C-Train station caused an outpouring of concern over the safety of the transit system. Scrutiny and criticism of procedures and protocols threatened an entire CTPO program takeover by CPS. The topic dominated the news and questioned strategies, as well as safety and security presence, along the transit line. This created a skewed perception that had to be rectified, and a transformation was evident beginning with its leadership. City officials conducted a safety audit, and the results led to Calgary Transit and CPS entering into a partnership. Today, the agencies are signatories to a Memorandum of Understanding, and a CPS member with the rank of inspector is seconded to lead the PS&E.

This change in leadership and direction has been instrumental in the introduction of strategic initiatives including an eight-member mountain bike unit, massive upgrades and installations of security cameras and monitoring equipment (Editor’s Note: please refer to sister publication SP&T News for more on this install, which was conducted by SP&T’s 2011 Integrator of the Year, Contava), the addition of 40 peace officers with a focus on diversity, a crime analyst and structural changes (the appointment of superintendent, inspectors and sergeants).

Changes happen not just to be “creative” or “outside the box.” They incorporate considerable research and carefully developed actions in a complex environment. This department, with its unique challenges and responsibilities, is a hybrid model of policing and is built around the principles of the Alberta Law Enforcement Framework.

Producing best practices in transit safety and security is imperative and needs ongoing involvement from the SMT and front-line CTPOs. From the theoretical concepts of criminology, such as analyzing crime and disorder on the C-Train system, the “broken window” theory of policing and crime reduction and prevention strategies, to the practical applications of strategic officer deployment and a service component through public input, change in the PS&E goes on.

The evolution in thinking demands a reframing of our collective challenges from a barrier focus to a values focus, and that is what is happening. Our professionalism is being enhanced, and our effectiveness is improving.

A hybrid model of law enforcement must have strategic partnerships and continuous input from stakeholders. Today, CTPOs are a visible presence on Calgary Transit, and CPS is the criminal investigating body that is able to spend more time on training and specialized sections. With a clear understanding of jurisdictional overlap, both agencies work together on initiatives in public safety on the transit lines.

I have been amazed by the constructive approach to changing the organizational culture within PS&E. The culture has developed through years of interaction between participants and it is exciting that the leaders recognize that long-term success depends on productive and positive input from all.

Vikram Kulkarni is a Peace Officer with the Public Safety & Enforcement section of Calgary Transit.

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