A police commission is now being established in the City of Grande Prairie after a new bylaw was passed on Monday. 

City council passed all three readings of Bylaw C-1455, which sees the creation of a police commission. 

“A really important concept of policing in our democracy is that politicians don’t actually direct the police,” said coun. Dylan Bressey.

The decision comes after council’s decision on March 6 to create its own municipal police service and phase out the RCMP contract policing over five years.

The commission will oversee the Grande Prairie Police Service (GPPS) by establishing policies, allocating funds from the city, and appointing officers. 

The commission’s first tasks will be finding an executive director and a police chief for the GPPS.

“The way things are intended to progress is the chief will come on board first, and then following the chief will be their initial police transition team,” said Chris Manuel, city executive director of Emergency Services.

He said the next steps would include hiring a senior officer who would help guide policy and procedure for police operations followe by a recruitment and training team. 

The first class of recruits is about a year away, said Manuel. 

It’s expected that for the interim a City of Grande Prairie employee will be seconded as the commission’s executive director while still employed by the city, Manuel said at the Public and Protective Services Committee meeting on March 14. 

Recruitment for commission members is expected to begin in the coming weeks, with the commission being appointed at the May 1 regular meeting of city council. 

The bylaw says the commission will consist of at least five members and at most 12.

Manuel suggests council will want a diverse group of people on the commission.

“You want a commission that represents the community as best you can with the number of positions you have,” said Manuel.

“One of the things this bylaw allows is the use of subcommittees.

“Subcommittees give you an opportunity to really focus in on specific topics and areas of interest for people within the community.”

No more than two members of council or city staff can be on the commission. 

Commission members will serve three-year terms and cannot serve over 10 consecutive years. 

At last Tuesday’s committee meeting, Mayor Jackie Clayton asked if a third party would be evaluating potential commission members.

“The idea of using a third party is still very much in play,” said Nicolay.  

“When we learned that the strong preference from the Minister (Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis) is that all commission members be local, the importance of an outside third party became more discretionary than it was in earlier contemplation.”

The bylaw allows for commission members to be paid for their service as long as they are not a city employee or members of council. More information on that is expected to be decided at the next standing committee meeting on Tuesday, March 28.

“This bylaw really is a pretty simple bylaw, and it’s just kind of the bones of the police commission,” said Bressey.

“There’s provincial guidelines and standards that have to be met,” said Manuel, “even the bylaw itself has to be in compliance with the Alberta Police Act, which is the overarching document.” 

The Public and Protective Services Committee expects a report on the composition and remuneration rates of other police commissions in the province at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 28.

The annual budget of the police commission during the transition period is $200,000, according to the city.

According to the Policing Transition Report, this year the city will create the commission, recruit the chief of police and other senior leadership positions, and develop GPPS policies and procedures.

Next year will see the first GPPS officers deployed into the community. 

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 23, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta
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