The County of Wetaskiwin is pondering the addition of another RCMP officer position, and got some detailed information directly from the force during the regular council meeting May 1.
Council met with RCMP K Division (Alberta) representatives Patricia Harrish and Insp. Shane Ramteemal, along with Wetaskiwin RCMP commander Insp. Keith Durance and Thorsby/Breton RCMP commander S/Sgt. Harp Dhaliwal.
Harrish noted K Division had received a letter of request from the county for information about “enhanced policing;” she noted that another position the county voiced interest in, an analyst, isn’t covered by tradition funding.
She noted the County of Wetaskiwin is big, and has four separate RCMP detachments that police it. Harrish stated enhanced policing includes two different levels of service; the first option includes a three-year commitment to fund another police officer.
The second option includes the county requesting another police position for a specific area of concern, for example, domestic violence or mental health. Harrish stated 21 communities in Alberta in 2017-18 had option 2 enhanced policing. She noted that once the contract, memorandum of understanding and other technical issues are completed, it can take up to one year to get an enhanced position filled.
Insp. Ramteemal added that it may not take that long; depending on the situation, he said it may only be three to six months to fill a position. He briefly discussed certain traffic and crime numbers in the County of Wetaskiwin, noting crime numbers are down slightly in the county in 2016-17.
Councilors asked a few questions about false alarms and how they affect police service. Durance said all alarms are answered. “We do go to all alarms,” said Insp. Durance.
Harrish stated the legalization of cannabis is an issue looming for police. She noted it’s not as easily detected as alcohol, but other jurisdictions with legal marijuana have used a saliva test that seems effective.
Ramteemal stated standard field sobriety test training is being done right now in response to the pending legalization.
Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers asked about the analyst position.
Harrish answered that analysts are invaluable, as they can spend time examining problem areas, trends and other crime prevention techniques. However, analysts can’t be funded in the way that an officer can be funded; the county would probably have to work with partners like the City of Wetaskiwin to hire an analyst. The cost of an analyst could vary widely, from $40,000 a year to $100,000 a year it was stated at the meeting.
Insp. Durance said security clearance has a huge role to play in what duties an analyst can perform and he noted analysts specialize in different jobs.
Rooyakkers asked what kind of analyst local RCMP would like. S/Sgt. Dhaliwal pointed out the county has four RCMP detachments, and all of them should probably be involved in the discussion if an analyst is going to be hired.
Councilor Lyle Seely noted that it seems strange to be told that crime rates have dropped, because, being out in the community, it certainly doesn’t feel like there’s less crime.
Harrish said some of that feeling could be related to the issue that not all crimes are reported.