Municipal police or RCMP? More study needed

A triage system to weed out low-priority calls to police would help take some of the workload off Mounties, say consultants undertaking a major study of crime prevention and policing in Red Deer.

Keith Taylor

Keith Taylor

A triage system to weed out low-priority calls to police would help take some of the workload off Mounties, say consultants undertaking a major study of crime prevention and policing in Red Deer.

Only a small percentage of calls to police are considered urgent and many of the rest could be directed towards bylaw officers or other departments, said consultant Keith Taylor of perivale+taylor at an update of the $150,000 policing review at the Golden Circle on Tuesday. A Web-based complaint system could also be considered for low-priority calls, which could be directed elsewhere.

“That would free up a lot of time,” said Taylor, at the open house, which drew about 30 people, nearly half of them city staff and council members.

Other recommendations included making the city’s crime prevention co-ordinator a permanent position, boost the number of community peace officers, adopt a city-wide community approach to ensure the downtown is effectively policed and direct more resources to crime analysis to spot trends.

One of the big questions — municipal police force or RCMP — remains the subject of more research. Consultants reviewed various regional and integrated municipal police and RCMP models but rejected them as not suitable. Left on the table, are the current system contracting RCMP or a city-run police force. A recommendation on those choices is expected in the fall that was promised to go far beyond a simple cost analysis.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said while the recommendations may be useful the issue of whether to go to a municipal force is the one in which the public has the most interest. The mayor said he is treating the issue with an open mind and is looking forward to seeing what the consultants’ research suggests.

Some of the recommendations revolving around improving efficiency in how the police are used have already been pursued by the city, he said, pointing to the development of the traffic enforcement department as one example.

“What we have been doing is trying to address some of the policing that does not require an RCMP officer.”

Consultants suggested that the bylaw department could be beefed up and officers could be drawn upon to help out the RCMP by cordoning off accident or crime scenes or other similar duties.

Councillor Frank Wong said there is some merit in downloading more calls to bylaw officers and municipal workers to reduce RCMP loads. He also saw some advantages in a recommendation to develop a business case to hire a crime prevention through environmental design specialist for the city.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com