The pros and cons of replacing Red Deer’s RCMP with a municipal police force will be investigated as part of an in-depth review on city operations.
On Monday, city council unanimously supported six recommendations —including a review of police services — from an organizational review that began in the fall with input from staff.
The city will update the 2005 Crime Prevention and Policing Study which looked at crime levels, best practices for crime prevention, and calls for change ranging from RCMP staffing to beneficial adjustments within the justice system.
As part of this, it will analyze whether a municipal police force would be a good fit for Alberta’s third largest city of around 90,000 people.
Administration will also look at whether a blended service of having both RCMP and a municipal force could work.
The RCMP contract with the city will be reviewed.
This review of policing is part of the first phase of an extensive organizational review at the city.
The city will explore the merits of having a Protective Services division comprised of police, emergency services and disaster planning, as part of Phase 2 of the review.
City manager Craig Curtis said the municipality hasn’t done such a review of its services since 1994 when there were fewer than 600 employees.
Today, there are close to 1,200 employees.
Curtis said it’s important to take a step back and see if there is a new way of doing business.
He made a number of recommendations after a consultant reviewed city operations over a two-month period. With council approval on Monday, some changes are already on their way.
The city will set up a Planning division on Feb. 1 so that planning and development functions will come under one umbrella.
“Right now, our planning is quite fragmented,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.
Paul Meyette, manager of Inspections and Licensing since 2004, will take on a new position as planning director on Feb. 1.
Meyette has been involved with the city for the last 20 years.
The city will also review the advantages and disadvantages of having an in-house planning department as opposed to contracting services to Parkland Community Planning Services.
A report will be brought back to council within nine months.
“We’re very conscious of our responsibility to our regional partners,” said Councillor Tara Veer.
Veer said a number of municipalities contract planning services to Parkland Community Planning Services, a nonprofit organization that pays dividends back to member municipalities if it achieves a profit at year’s end.
“If the city pulls out, then Parkland Community Planning wouldn’t be as sustainable,” she said.
Another planning change will see the city manager and the Development Services Director removed as voting members of the Municipal Planning Commission.
In their place will be two others, possibly city councillors or members of the public.
“It makes it much more democratic,” said councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer.
A new Corporate Leadership Team, which will replace the senior management team, will be set up in January to focus on strategic directions. Also in January, the city will set up an Operational Leadership Team of department heads and directors as a way to better collaborate.
The organizational review also includes looking at the role of council and its boards and committees. The corporate leadership team will also develop principles to govern future restructuring of departments.
Although not part of the organizational review, the city will also look at its hiring practices. It’s being done in response to the economic recession and the drop in service demand in some departments. All vacancies will be evaluated as to their service impact, financial savings or costs, and possible reallocation of workload.
Discussions on Phase 2 will begin in January and are expected to be implemented over a six-month period.