Once in a lifetime, a unique opportunity comes along. Great leaders seize it.
All the front runners in the race to replace Jason Kenney support the idea of an Alberta police force while the province has committed to exploring the idea. Yet municipalities have been lining up to oppose moving away from the RCMP. Before Red Deer joins the ‘no crowd,’ they should see a wonderful opportunity. If Red Deer strongly endorses the idea now, there would be an opportunity to be at the table as the details of the new police force are worked out. Red Deer is ideally situated to have the training centre and the headquarters for the new police force. This is a far more productive and collaborative approach than just yelling ‘No’ from the sidelines. The issue may also be forced on Alberta the RCMP as a recent recommendation was that the RCMP end contract policing with municipalities.
Red Deer would be the largest municipality where the Alberta police force would operate so it would be logical to have the headquarters and training centre here. But you may have noticed government isn’t always logical so some early support and promotion for the project would go a long way.
Red Deer has gained a reputation for having a crime problem. This could be our chance to increase the number of officers in our city if we support this initiative. The city can’t hire more and better judges as well as crown prosecutors, but they could get on the ground floor of the Alberta police force and make sure it is the best fit possible for our city. This is an opportunity to increase the number of officers in our city and to rethink how policing is done.
The new Justice Centre opening next year, with a full complement of staff, should alleviate some of the backlogs on court time. The old court could be an excellent headquarters for the new Alberta police force. And there is plenty of great vacant commercial space that the training centre could use.
Leaving the contract with the RCMP is not to disparage any current Red Deer RCMP Officers. Many of the officers that I have personally met are outstanding humans, who do their absolute best to serve our city. I hope all who want to stay in Alberta are offered similar roles at the same pay. For the record, 9 of 10 provinces have either ended their contract with RCMP or are exploring it.
The Alberta police force represents a chance to improve how policing is done. In these early stages, it will be important to steer the model of policing to have recovery and restorative justice as core principles. We must also find a way to end the current catch and release system. It will need to be done right. We know that the way policing is done needs to change and this represents a chance for more local decision-making, which always leads to better outcomes.
Change takes courage. We need to improve policing but the RCMP is a large and old institution which by nature means they are going to be a slow-changing organization. We’ve seen the RCMP be susceptible to political corruption, with RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki adding political interference in the Nova Scotia shootings being the current example.
One of the primary objections to the Alberta police force from municipalities is the fear that additional costs will be downloaded onto the municipalities. But the province has already stated that the cost to municipalities will not go up and one way to make sure the province keeps that promise is to make sure Red Deer has a seat at the table as the details are being worked out.
We could also make sure there is even more regional decision-making in how policing is done. Maybe we could even set up regional boundaries better so that calls for police in Gasoline Alley aren’t responded to by Blackfalds. Bad guys don’t respect city limits, we need to think differently about how the police force is organized.
This is an opportunity for our mayor and council to be proactive in addressing the crime problem in our city. Being at the table when the Alberta police force is set up will make a significant difference. Having the headquarters and training center in Red Deer represents a massive opportunity for our city. The choice is clear – will Red Deer be at the table or will they be booing from the cheap seats?
Chad Krahn is a former candidate for Red Deer City Council.