The union representing federal public safety workers who work for the RCMP has launched a campaign to oppose Alberta’s proposal to switch to a provincial police force.
The nationally based Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE) echoed the concerns of the National Police Federation and communities with Alberta Municipalities that recently voted against a provincial police force.
“Our primary concern is not just the loss of hundreds if not thousands of jobs, but the expertise and experience that the RCMP currently offers to many rural communities (and larger centres) in Alberta. We have heard loud and clear that Albertans want enhancements to policing services in the province, not the elimination of the RCMP,” said union president David Neufeld in a statement.
The union represents over 17,000 public safety employees, including several thousands who work for the RCMP throughout Canada. They include lab technologists, integrated traffic unit clerks, dog services assistants, detachment services assistants, workers in specialized units such as integrated child exploitations, finance major crimes, and more.
USJE Local 30065, which represents members in the Red Deer and the central Alberta area, represents about 70 employees.
“As is the case with any police force, there is always the need to improve levels of service. I can say unequivocally that the value of the RCMP in Alberta is that we are part of a national policing service that brings significant capacity. Public safety depends on a nimble and confident police force,” Neufeld said.
He said transitioning away from the RCMP would likely make it harder to retain seasoned police officers.
“We have seen this challenge play out in other jurisdictions and it has been far from easy. Costs are not easily controlled when you are heavily competing with many other services to hire qualified police officers and support staff,” Neufeld added.
Valda Behrens, the union’s regional vice-president who lives in Alberta, said there was simply too much uncertainty and risk to move to a provincial police force.
Union of Safety and Justice Employees has developed the campaign website AlbertansForRCMP.ca to raise awareness about the issues associated with the proposed provincial police force.
The union urges Albertans to voice their concerns, and website has information people can share with their MLA or local municipal councils.