Red Deer RCMP welcome city council’s desire to set specific benchmarks on police performance.
Council approved a 20-year municipal policing agreement earlier this week after the province worked with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to achieve the provincewide deal with the federal government.
Part of that contract will allow for greater autonomy within the municipality — including setting benchmarks on how police respond to criminal and non-criminal matters.
RCMP Insp. Warren Dosko said he’s excited about talking more with Mayor Morris Flewwelling and the rest of council and administration about police service levels.
“I think that process is going to be extremely healthy for the community and extremely healthy for safety,” said Dosko on Wednesday.
“Any time you set standards for any kind of work you are doing, it gives the ability to evaluate what you are doing.”
He said the RCMP have some traditional benchmarks they follow.
For example, they prioritize calls from the public on three levels, with Priority 1 being the most important. Priority 1 calls include domestic abuse complaints, for example.
One thing the city could do is set different standards around priority calls and measure those according to response times, Dosko said.
The police also traditionally look at clearance rates when it comes to successfully resolving cases.
Dosko said the city may want to set specific benchmarks around the city’s crime rate or the crime severity index, which gives serious crime a higher weight than less serious crime. As a result, changes in more serious crimes would have a greater impact on the index than on the traditional crime rate.
“So there’s a significant number of indicators out there that measure crime or the perception of safety in the community,” said Dosko.
“I think it’s important work,” he said.
Coun. Tara Veer said citizens were keen during a recent policing review to find out if the RCMP only respond to Ottawa’s priorities. The new contract includes the ability for municipalities to have influence over the RCMP, she said.
Veer said council can now help to establish local priorities for enforcement, such as what police should do regarding drug enforcement.
Plus, council will have the ability to set benchmarks regarding police service levels, she added.
Veer said she believes benchmarks should be set around response times, clearance rates, ratio of case loads per officer, and targets around crime rates and the crime severity index.
Council has been working on the city’s safety charter, a major work plan that will implement recommendations from last year’s extensive policing study. The charter will help with the creation of local priorities and benchmarks, Veer added.
She expects this work will take about a year to accomplish.
“I think it’s very reasonable to establish service levels and I think our community is looking for us to do that,” said Veer.