Before Red Deer RCMP officers can lay any criminal charges this fall, they will have to check with Crown prosecutors to ensure the evidence can stand up in court.
A pre-charge approval process that was successfully piloted for six months in Hinton, Canmore and Strathcona County will be expanded to Red Deer in October.
This means local police officers will be required to work closely with Crown prosecutors to ensure that the charges they intend to lay can proceed and be supported by the justice system.
Mayor Tara Veer thinks it’s a good idea, considering that crime and public safety is the community’s No. 1 concern.
“The city is optimistic that piloting the new pre-charge approval process will ensure that more local charges are upheld by the court,” said Veer, who added the city will continue pushing for a more efficient justice system.
Insp. Holly Glassford, operations officer for Red Deer RCMP, is cautiously optimistic this new method will make better use of both the police and the court’s time.
While Glassford still needs to learn more details, she said the idea is to weed out potential cases that can’t withstand legal scrutiny.
“It’s to improve and increase the efficiency.”
Some police training will be required in filling out new, more detailed forms, Glassford added.
Because police and prosecutors consider cases from different perspectives, Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General developed the pilot project (along with the RCMP and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada) to bring the two viewpoints together.
By bringing only charges that meet a higher prosecutorial standard into courtrooms, there’s a greater chance of success in prosecuting offenders — and Glassford said this is the goal of both the police and the justice systems.
Evidence suggests the co-operative approach can reduce a crush of court cases that can cause backlogs.
Statistics Canada data indicates average caseloads are more than 20 per cent lower in the three provinces that use this pre-charge system — British Columbia, New Brunswick and Quebec.
Glassford said she looks forward to having a closer working relationship with prosecutors.
“We are early in the process, but it will be a shift in the way we do business.”