Rural Alberta communities concerned with proposed provincial police force

WATCH: Some southern Alberta towns are weighing in on the UCP government’s proposed provincial police service. On Tuesday, the government unveiled its blueprint for what a potential transition away from the RCMP would look like. As Jaclyn Kucey reports, some mayors are voicing concern about the impact the change could have on their communities.

Mayor Byrne Cook of Magrath, Alta., is among dozens of rural municipal leaders across the province expressing uncertainty over the UCP government’s proposed provincial police service.

“The primary concern we have is the increase in cost,” Cook said, adding the town currently pays $70,000 per year for RCMP services but is worried a change could see that bill rise.

“Magrath only has about 3,000 residents. We don’t even have a police department detachment in the town. Our police officers come over from Raymond, which is about 15 minutes away,” said Cook.

On Tuesday, Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro held a news conference unveiling the UCP’s latest provincial police blueprint and explained how the new service would help address staffing shortages in communities currently served by the RCMP.

Read more:

Alberta justice minister outlines plan for provincial police force

The new system would see a minimum of 10 officers stationed at each community detachment where currently in some communities, there are less than three.

“The RCMP’s mandate is stretched too thin and as a result, its community policing services are a one-size-fits-all proposition no matter where you live in Canada,” said Shandro.

“I’m sure there’s places in Alberta that could use 10 officers in their detachment, and they could use more help,” said Cook. “But to go through and just have these blanket statements and change everything, and then to download the cost onto the smaller communities; that’s not very fair.”

A group of more than 50 rural municipalities sent a call to action to the government of Alberta in June to stop development of the program, with hopes funding would instead go towards increasing the number of rural RCMP officers improving social services, and increasing resources within the justice system.

Read more:

Rural Alberta municipalities ask UCP to stop planning provincial police force

Taber, Alta., which has its own police service — something rare among smaller centres — is now fielding inquiries from other communities looking for ways to potentially start their own departments.

“It’s still not crystal clear on what the best route to follow is, but it is very clear, the criminal element is up in the rural area in particular,” said Taber Mayor Andrew Prokop.

Prokop said having a local service allows for more control over the community.

Still, he and others hope to see more consultation on the provincial police proposal before a final decision.

“Everything doesn’t work the same for every single community,” said Cook.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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