Red Deer Coun. Buck Buchanan. (Advocate file photo).

City councillor wants to start a ‘hybrid’ police force of RCMP and municipal officers

Buck Buchanan said the RCMP moves too slowly on new initiatives

Some city councillors and the RCMP superintendent aired differing perspectives on why certain policing initiatives were delayed in Red Deer.

Councillors Buck Buchanan and Tanya Handley suggested the city tried for years to get the RCMP to move on things like allowing private-sector “collision centres” to start operating to deal with accident reports. This would free up police officers to work on more serious cases.

Buchanan, a retired RCMP officer, believes the national police force does not like sharing data.

As a result, he said Red Deer RCMP cannot seem to move the responsibilities for criminal record checks and collision reports to private agencies.

While many cities with municipal forces are already doing this, Red Deer is still waiting, added Buchanan, who noted the RCMP is still piloting the idea for what’s now the second year in Grande Prairie.

But Supt. Gerald Grobmeier, of Red Deer RCMP, said the City of Red Deer had a chance to have this same pilot project unrolled here, but passed, thinking it would be better to let Grande Prairie iron out any potential kinks that could arise.

Summary of policing review

“Some of the delays are caused by city policies, as well,” he said.

Another delayed initiative was the downtown police patrol.

Buchanan said the trouble with continuing to rely on the RCMP for policing is that the national force is slow moving. The councillor added it took four years to finally get the local detachment to create a designated downtown police patrol.

But Grobmeier later countered this by saying it came down to getting adequate funding from the city for an additional patrol. Without having appropriate resources for this initiative “we would have had to close down another section.”

City council did not make a decision on Tuesday about whether to stick with the RCMP or start up a municipal police force.

Discussion on it was pushed ahead to the first quarter of 2020 to allow for public input to be received by phone or email and for more information from administration.

Grobmeier sees it as an opportunity to look at doing things differently — “at how to be more responsive at service delivery.”

Buchanan sees it as a chance to form a hybrid police force for Red Deer that introduces municipal police officers.

Of the city‘s 171 current police officers, Buchanan envisions 125 becoming part of a municipal force working under a Police Commission and a direction set by the City of Red Deer. They would deal with day-to-day call-in crime complaints.

The other 46 officers would continue working as RCMP officers on projects such as Pinpoint, which focuses on locating prolific criminals and investigating whether they are linked to crime hot spots in the city.

Buchanan believes officers in the two forces could regularly collaborate on cases, as needed.

Although a hybrid model was not considered by the policing review done over the past year (protective services director Paul Goranson explained there‘s already collaboration between the RCMP and various municipal police forces), Buchanan feels this is still something council can consider.

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