Harris missed policing vote

The City of Red Deer would now be exploring a new hybrid policing model if Coun. Paul Harris’ Air Canada flight wasn’t cancelled on Monday.

Harris said he was disappointed he didn’t make it back from Hawaii in time to vote in favour of a motion put forward by his council colleague Dianne Wyntjes.

She proposed the city explore a new innovative hybrid policing model that would join the RCMP with a municipal force. But the idea was narrowly defeated by a four-four vote. (In favour were Wyntjes, Tanya Handley, Ken Johnston and Buck Buchanan. Against the motion were Lawrence Lee, Lynne Mulder, Frank Wong and Mayor Tara Veer).

Harris said if he was at the meeting, as he expected to be, he would have voted for the motion.

He previously worked on the hybrid policing idea with Wyntjes in the belief that a different policing model is sorely needed complaints about Priority 3 and 4 crimes are responded to in a timely way. “I’ve been looking for a solution for this for seven years,” said Harris. “This is not a new problem.”

He doesn’t feel the RCMP — “a big bureaucratic organization” that answers to its Ottawa headquarters rather than Red Deer city council — will ever come up with a satisfactory solution to dealing with lower priority police matters. Although the city pays for the lion’s share of local RCMP costs, Harris feels “we have very little influence over the RCMP because that’s not how their model works.”

He said the directive of the national/provincial force is to give most attention to large, high priority crimes and the paperwork needed to get them through court. “That’s understandable,” he added — except that most Red Deer crime victims are tired of the lack of police response towards crimes they are most affected by — such as property break-ins.

Harris and Wyntjes believe there’s no way of getting a new result from retaining the status quo.

Red Deer must look at a new model of policing, said Harris, who noted this city is among the largest in Canada that still relies on the RCMP instead of a municipal force.

Although Wyntjes’s motion was supported strongly by former police officer Coun. Buchanan and Johnston, Mayor Veer said Red Deer already has a hybrid policing model, since the city uses traffic sheriffs to take some of the load off RCMP officers.

Counc. Wong noted at Monday’s meeting that the city is also establishing a public safety division to look at crime prevention.

Harris believes the city needs to go further still, perhaps hiring more municipal police to respond to accident scenes.

He and Wyntjes hope that a motion that was passed by council on Monday — to hold a workshop to discuss, among other things, how police service levels can be improved for lower priority calls — will keep the door open to the hybrid policing idea.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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