ATHABASCA - Since the early 1930s, RCMP have given custom challenge coins as a way to promote friendships, strengthen bonds, and encourage success — and now the Athabasca RCMP and Athabasca County have officially reached that level of friendship.
Athabasca RCMP Cpl. Alan Caldwell and Boyle RCMP Cpl. Gavin Bergey dropped in on Athabasca County’s May 26 meeting for a chat on topics ranging from the use of body cameras to the legalities of drones to the rising number of traffic collisions in the region. The detachments essentially split the county into two areas of coverage with Boyle members covering north to Wandering River and west to Amber Valley.
“The Athabasca detachment has created a challenge coin; these are things that police forces and other military organizations create representative of either their unit door, or in our case, our detachment area, and they're used for different functions. So, the Athabasca detachment would like to present the county with a challenge coin that we’ve created for Athabasca,” said Caldwell to end the visit, which was more of a conversation with councillors who asked the corporals pertinent questions.
The 1.5-inch coin sports the RCMP logo on one side with a paddle boat on the river, two boreal trees onshore to the right, and a bear print above with the words ‘Athabasca, Alberta Gateway to the Great New North, emblazoned around its circumference.
Bergey and Caldwell started their visit referring to the body camera pilot project the RCMP has recently undertaken, and while they weren’t sure of an exact timeline, they were sure cameras would soon become a part of their uniforms.
“I think it's a great addition to our kit,” Bergey said, pointing out he wore a body camera for six months while posted with the gang unit in Fort McMurray. “I found it to be extremely beneficial. The behaviour of the public was the most surprising thing.”
The cameras will tell the true story behind any given situation, he said, with the only downside he could see being the limitations of technology having to be recharged frequently, as well as their performance in extremely cold weather.
Reeve Brian Hall said the cameras give him confidence in the safety of the members who may be patrolling by themselves in rural areas, like the bulk of Athabasca County.
Coun. Natasha Kapitaniuk said she has recently been fielding residents’ concerns about drones in the area with some concerned with the general invasion of privacy as well as the potential the remotely controlled flying machines may be used by criminals to scope out potential targets.
Unfortunately, said Bergey, the laws have not kept up with the pace of technology when it comes to drones.
“There's certain areas that drones can and cannot fly, and then being in rural Athabasca County there’s not a lot of places they aren’t allowed to fly,” he said.
Caldwell added there are also different rules depending on its size, if the machine is being used for commercial, or private use, noting if residents think their properties are being observed by potential criminals to call their local detachment.
Coun. Kelly Chamzuk inquired as to whether there were any plans to patrol more of the county’s subdivisions for trespassing and off-highway vehicles, while Coun. Tracy Holland asked about activities on public lands that may disturb others.
Bergey confirmed more patrols can be expected, especially in the lake areas, and around Wandering River.
Caldwell also noted a spike in the number of collisions in recent months, especially with large animals. He urged drivers to be alert, use their headlights, keep their windows clear and to drive to the weather.
Bergey noted he has been in contact with Alberta Transportation to have flashing lights installed on Highway 63, and detection devices from Grassland through to Wandering River to alert drivers of any potential collisions waiting to happen along the way.