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Getting the best bang for policing bucks

County of Barrhead reeve questions how can they spend their policing money to get maximum impact for residents
County of Barrhead reeve Doug Drozd Feb.4
County of Barrhead reeve Doug Drozd asked RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds if there was an area the municipality could direct potential police funding to that would positively impact public safety. Barry Kerton/BL
BARRHEAD—If the County of Barrhead has to pay for a portion of their policing costs, how can they target it so that it has the most impact for its residents?

That is the question reeve Doug Drozd posed to Barrhead Detachment commander Bob Dodds at the Feb. 4 council meeting.

Dodds was at the meeting to deliver his regular quarterly report.

Starting this year, counties and municipal districts and communities under 5,000 will have to start paying a portion of their policing costs.

In 2020, municipalities will have to contribute 10 per cent. Their share will rise every year until it reaches 30 per cent of policing costs by 2023.

The funds, in part, will be used to add 200 additional civilian support workers and 300 RCMP officers.

However, municipalities can offset this expense by deducting policing services it already pays for such as the school resource officer (SRO) that the county funds in partnership with the Town of Barrhead, Pembina Hills School Division (PHSD) and Woodlands County.

“Is there something that would be beneficial to us, such as a crime analyst? Would having a tool like that have any benefit to the community?” Drozd asked. “My fear is putting funds into a pool that puts resources elsewhere instead of something that would be a benefit to us.”

Dodds agreed, saying it makes more sense to deploy certain resources in a community than others.

He said that during the rural crime open house the detachment hosted in Barrhead in September, an attendee suggested a dog team. (It should be noted the detachment will be hosting another rural crime open house in Fort Assiniboine on Feb. 26.)

“A police dog is an awesome resource to have,” he said. However over the 10 years he has been in Barrhead they have used a dog team about 50 times. “That is five days in 365. What do you do with them for the other 355 days?”

Dodds suggested having a crime analyst in the community would create a similar dilemma.

He added that when needed they can utilize a crime analyst based in St. Paul.

Dodds said one area that would benefit the detachment is by funding or providing a civilian member or support staff resource.

“I would love to have 10 more members, but it isn’t realistic,” he said.

That being said, Dodds has discussed the possibility of adding another corporal position with the Eastern Alberta District.

“We are trying to supervise eight constables, with one corporal and given the junior nature of our membership it takes more supervision,” he said. “And that isn’t going to come from municipal funding.”

Currently, the corporal position in Barrhead is vacant as they are waiting for a transfer to arrive.

County manager Debbie Oyarzun noted the discussion about how municipalities can target extra police funding might be moot, as Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer has stated they will not allow any further policing agreements with municipalities for augmented services until they fill the 300 RCMP positions.

“And [the province] will be the ones who determine where those extra constables go. Dodds added. “I have heard the first round will be 50 constables and the Eastern Alberta District will get eight.”

He added the chances that Barrhead will get one of those constables is slim.

“Barrhead is one of the safer places in the province, so why would the extra resources be sent here?” Dodds asked.

Oyarzun noted a municipality typically ties funding to service levels.

“We are being asked to put dollars in but it isn’t impacting our service level,” she said.

Barry Kerton,

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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