BARRHEAD — While insisting that no final decision has been made, the Alberta government has launched a new information website explaining the potential benefits of transitioning to a provincial police service.
The website, which can be visited at futureofABpolicing.ca, explains that the federal government is “taking a hard look” at the future of RCMP contract policing and suggests that Alberta needs to be able to lead this discussion by designing a new provincial police service with improved civilian oversight, more frontline police officers and improved service levels.
“As all levels of government across the country review their policing models, Albertans need to have all the information available to ensure they lead this national discussion and make sure the future of policing in the province meets their needs,” said Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro, in a release.
The website further explains that a provincial police force would not replace policing everywhere throughout Alberta – only those communities that receive contract policing from the RCMP, such as Athabasca, Barrhead and Westlock.
A section containing information for municipalities stresses the point that if the transition to a provincial police service occurs, municipalities will either pay the same amount they do now for contract policing or potentially less.
It also states the provincial police service would allow for the creation of a provincial police commission and local commission to give municipalities more say in setting priorities and performance targets.
The website also promises that a provincial police service would have more front-line police officers deployed in rural areas compared to the RCMP contract policing model, though it doesn’t precisely describe how that would occur.
Regarding federal funding of the RCMP, the website points out that there is “no guarantee” that the federal government would continue to subsidize RCMP policing as much as they do now when the current police contract expires.
Acknowledging that the transition study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada (PwC Canada) found that switching to a provincial police service could come with one-time costs of $366 to $371 million, it argues that Alberta is already spending millions on policing and RCMP costs are rising year after year.
In regards to who would actually staff this new service, the website indicates that current RCMP members would be welcomed if they wished to stay in the province, but the provincial service would also be able to attract candidates “who are attracted to the rural Alberta lifestyle.”
Training of new officers would occur in Alberta and allow for training to be tailored to “the Alberta context,” it states.
Meeting with Minister
It's worth noting that on June 29, County of Barrhead councillors attended a meeting with Shandro to express their views about the plans to move to a provincial police service.
County of Barrhead reeve Doug Drozd stated in an e-mail that it was a quick 45-minute meeting where the Minister took the time to update councillors on the process the province was following, followed by the opportunity to ask some questions. Everyone was polite and kept their comments brief, he added.
Drozd said the County of Barrhead has not settled on any position regarding the proposed provincial police service, unlike other local municipalities that have voiced their opposition to the transition.
"I guess like all Albertans, we have different opinions on the transition," he said.