At the Feb. 2, 2021 Wetaskiwin County Council meeting council discussed the possibility of a provincial police force.
Council reviewed information provided by the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) through their new “Issue Backgrounder” tool. The goal of the Issue Backgrounder tool is to allow the RMA to prepare municipalities and councils to make informed decisions on presented issues.
At the Feb. 2, 2021 Council meeting the presented Issue Backgrounder was about the provincial investigation into the creation of a provincial police force. The potential creation of a provincial police force is a discussion that RMA believes will be one of the major municipal issues of 2021.
RMA’s presentation was to alert and prepare council that further discussions on this issue are likely to ensue this year.
Starting in the fall of 2020 the province has moved quickly on a recommendation from Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel (FDP) that was released in May 2020, the recommendation being that the province “create an Alberta Police Service to replace the RCMP.”
The FDP’s recommendation for a provincial police service is based on several issues they associated with current RCMP service including a lack of community familiarity among RCMP officers due to frequent transfers, bureaucracy and a lack of responsiveness to local community needs due to the centralization of RCMP decisions-making in Ottawa. RMA’s Issue backgrounder states, “the panel (FDP) also identified chronic understaffing of RCMP detachments, particularly in smaller communities, as an issue.”
The FDP also says that some of what they view would be advantages to a provincial police service include increased local control over policing, greater stability for police and community members and increased local knowledge on the part of officers.
“The FDP’s final report acknowledges that a shift to provincial police service would come with a cost. Specifically, cancelling the current agreement between the Government of Alberta and RCMP would result in the province taking on responsibility for covering the $112.4 million that the federal government currently contributes to RCMP policing in Alberta annually,” states the RMA in their Issue Backgrounder.
In addition, jurisdictional policing salary comparisons suggest it is unlikely there would be salary savings due to the current low comparative pay of the RCMP.
As the concept of a provincial police force affects both urban and rural municipalities, excepting those with their own police force such as Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and a few towns, RMA is encouraging municipalities to discuss this issue within their councils and with other municipalities. RMA says they will continue to provide updates to rural municipalities on this issue as it progresses.
At the Feb. 2 Council meeting, Councillor Woitt moved that Council Accept the RMA Backgrounder – Provincial Investigation into Creating a Provincial Force to Replace the RCMP as information. Council carried the motion unanimously.