Will Alberta get its own provincial police service? – LacombeOnline.com
The Government of Alberta recently launched a new website that outlines what a provincial police service could look like.
The government has recently begun to explore the possibility of creating a police service in Alberta, which would mean that the RCMP would no longer be the primary police service in Alberta. The RCMP would still have a role as a federal police force focused on cybercrime, human trafficking and organized crime, but contract policing would fall to the provincial police.
Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro believes a provincial police service would better serve Alberta communities.
“We have these mid-sized regional towns that are in the north and the south, whether it’s Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, we have bigger smaller towns than you would see in places like Saskatchewan or Manitoba, and I think a lot of that distribution of our population means we have very specific needs.”
Shandro highlighted several benefits that he believes could occur, such as maintaining some forensic services in the province, improving Alberta databases, expanding Alert services, greater involvement in recruiting and training and civilian oversight. Shandro highlighted the importance of civilian oversight in particular.
“Having civilian control over the budget, civilian control over the deployment of resources, over the complaints system. Having this modern police governance is hugely important. Especially when you see the scrutiny of the profession over the past 5 years, and people demanding that the profession grow and have this modern civilian oversight.”
The RCMP are not trained in Alberta, but the provincial police are, which Shandro says would prepare officers for Alberta-specific issues. He added that the RCMP has not been able to provide excellent service to all communities, which he hopes to change with the provincial service.
“When you look at the Public Safety Canada website, they admit they are failing our communities. The RCMP is distracted, they have their own role, and to also do contract policing, they just don’t have the bandwidth to provide our community with the resources they need.”
To provide the necessary resources, Shandro turned to civilian oversight. Controlling our own resources, Shandro says they want the minimum number of officers to be 10 per detachment. Some detachments have only 3-5 officers, which means that 40% of the 113 detachments in Alberta would see an increase.
While such a big leap seems impossible for so many detachments, Shandro explained that it all comes down to distribution.
“We frankly need fewer officers deployed in an administrative role or in headquarters, and actually deployed in our rural communities.”
According to Shandro, getting out of the contract with the RCMP is something the province and the federal government want. The federal government pays 30% of RCMP costs in Alberta, and if the contract is terminated, it is unclear whether Alberta would continue to receive a subsidy. This will be discovered if the province decides to go ahead with the provincial police and negotiate with the federal government.
“We don’t know what would happen if the federal government continued with their grant if we went ahead with the provincial police. But we know this: we’re halfway through a 20-year deal that started in 2012, but even when we were negotiating with the federal government in 2007, the federal government at the time even tried to pull out of this grant, so the provinces unleashed a storm and we ended up getting this grant in the Provincial Policing Services Agreement (PPSA). But we know that the federal government wants to get out of this subsidy anyway.”
“The RCMP is our federal policing service, and I think one of the reasons the federal government says it’s been trying to get out of contract policing for years is that it wants the RCMP to focus only on what its core functions are supposed to be, i.e. cybercrime, human trafficking, organized crime.”
A 2020 transition study report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers Canada indicates that the transition would cost between $336 million and $371 million.
There has been some pushback, with 70 municipalities sending a letter to Premier Jason Kenney to keep the RCMP. Shandro acknowledged these complaints, but stressed the importance of discussing the matter, especially since no decision has yet been made.
“We’ve seen some municipalities sending correspondence to me or the premier or both saying ‘stop talking about it. I want you to just put a bullet in there and I want this conversation to end.” I don’t think they realize that even if we as a firm and society decide not to continue for the moment, it wouldn’t make this conversation go away anytime.”
“It is not a partisan issue, and it is unfortunate that there are people who want to make it a partisan issue. But an all-party committee in British Columbia recommends getting out of contract policing for the RCMP, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, all jurisdictions that have services contract police, with the exception of Manitoba, are considering this. And the federal government. “
Shandro explained that Prime Minister Kenney will not make any major policy changes until he retires in October, so the decision will not be his. It would rather be a question of whether or not the new leader and prime minister of the UCP wishes to move forward. For now, Shandro is focused on listening to what Albertans are thinking.
“We need to make sure that we continue to engage with people, to fulfill this obligation that we have made and to make sure that people understand what the opportunity really is, and then we can have these insightful comments from Albertans.”