Original Published on Sep 01, 2022 at 11:10

By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Local municipal leaders and councils have been voicing concerns regarding the proposed creation of an Alberta Provincial Police Service.

The idea of a new police service was created to address vocalization of municipalities and Alberta constituents who felt rural police response times needed to be improved and increased resources needed to be made available to the justice system.

Town of Peace River mayor Elaine Manzer says that the Alberta government sent out an information package to municipalities recently to address some concerns expressed, but she feels that the questions posed are still left unaddressed.

“The province has assured us that costs won’t go up, but I don’t see how that is possible,” says Manzer. “They said they’re going to hire 95 more mental health and social workers, but where will they come from? And where will the money come from?”

Manzer says that the province intends on hiring more officers and creating three major hubs that would have more specialized programs for their officers. She says it is already hard to find trained people in other fields, pointing out difficulty in recruiting doctors, nurses, and other professionals to our region, wondering how the province anticipates keeping the current policing budget while increasing services and officers.

An email sent to municipalities from the Ministry of Justice on Aug. 16 states the deployment model would include increasing the number of police officers in rural Alberta to a minimum of 10 per detachment. The key benefits marked as distributing, increasing, and improving resources across the province to prioritize rural, remote, and Indigenous communities.

Donnelly mayor Myrna Lanctot agrees with Manzer, saying there’s been no concrete information or guarantee provided by the province that costs won’t go up. Lanctot says many Albertans are already struggling with basic living expenses, and any additional tax inflicted will not be readily accepted.

“Our council is concerned about the cost that will be downloaded onto the municipality,” says Lanctot, who says her constituents will not welcome additional taxes added to their annual dues. “After all, there is only one taxpayer to pay for all these additional services.”

Clearly a province-wide concern, on June 27 a letter started circulating to all municipalities to add their communities on an ever-growing list of communities demanding the provincial government arrest any further development and efforts they’re putting into creating the Alberta Provincial Police Service.

The letter states, ‘the Government of Alberta has lost the trust of its constituents in its pursuit of an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) by not undertaking fulsome, open and transparent consultations with all those affected. Albertans have stated loud and clear that they do not want a costly new police service, with an overwhelming 84% of Albertans wanting to keep and improve the Alberta RCMP’.

“At the meetings, I’ve felt it’s more of a one-way conversation rather than a dialogue,” says Manzer, expressing what other municipal leaders have stated about the communications being seemingly directed by the province for a select outcome. “Participants at provincial meetings have indicated they are not in support of a provincial police.”

The letter, that’s now been signed by all the municipalities in the readership area, is demanding the province scrap its provincial police service, and instead invest in resources needed to improve current policing services to reduce response times and address rural crime by increasing the number of RCMP officers within communities. It asks government to improve social services to address the root causes of crime (health, mental health, social and economic supports) and to increase resources within the justice system.

Northern Sunrise County Deputy Reeve Corinna Williams said during a local meeting that many municipalities don’t feel the APPS will be a solution to the concerns.

“APPS will not fix the broken Justice System. The JSG (Justice Solicitor General) needs to have a closer look at the revolving door rather than demoralizing the RCMP that are part of rural communities,” Williams says. “Clearly this Government is not listening to Albertans or Municipalities that have signed many letters to stop the formation of an APPS model.”

Emily Plihal

This item reprinted with permission from South Peace News – southpeacenews.com, High Prairie, Alberta