Premier Jason Kenney says an Alberta police force would do a better job at rural policing after a recent fatal shooting just south of Red Deer.
The premier made the comments late last week in response to a question about rural policing at an agricultural industry announcement near Bowden.
“We all know there’s been a rural crime crisis for several years, especially in property crimes. Increasingly violent crimes. You saw what happened in Penhold…
“(The intruder) did three home invasions, beat people in a family with a bat,” Kenney said Friday in a press conference.
“(He) came back repeatedly and this guy kept getting put back on the street. Ultimately, it led to the dad having to defend his family. Sadly, with lethal effect. We’ve seen too many things like this.”
RCMP released further details about the events surrounding the shooting near the C & E Trail and Township Road 374 Tuesday, saying that an individual had attended the property twice before he was fatally shot on Aug. 2 and was arrested at the property and charged with mischief, just days before the shooting.
Police also say the shooting took place at 3:07 p.m. on Aug. 2. They were dispatched to the property at 3:11 p.m. and arrived on scene at 3:20 p.m.
In his remarks, Kenney said that interaction further emphasizes the need for a community police force in the province, one that would replace the RCMP.
“Especially in rural, one of the issues is unacceptably long police response times. I think we can do better with a community police model. That’s what the city people have, with municipal police forces, in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and four other communities. If it’s good enough for city people, why isn’t it good enough for rural people to have their own local police force?” Kenney said.
“That’s what an Alberta provincial police force would provide. We respect the RCMP and the many great RCMP officers who serve our communities. We honour them and we support them, but the RCMP is a huge national, complex organization with an unfocused mandate. They do everything from highway patrol in rural Alberta, to complex national security and cybercrime stuff in Ottawa. That’s not a community policing model.
“I think it would be awesome in principle to have a provincial police force, where girls and boys can dream of becoming a police officer and serving in their community for the rest of their lives – a community that they understand, where they know the local geography where they know the issues. That’s the community policing model.”
Kenney’s comments have drawn the ire of the National Police Association.
In a letter, Alberta-based regional directors of the National Police Federation argued in part, that an RCMP-led anti-rural crime program launched in 2019 has reduced crime and deterred future crimes.
According to the data by the federation, repeated property crimes decreased by over 55 percent, break and enters are down by 17 percent, and motor vehicle thefts are down by almost 20 percent.
Overall, the program, titled Project Lock-Up has resulted in 14,230 fewer property crime offences and 21,285 fewer total Criminal Code offences in rural areas in 2020.
The premier also further emphasized that he believes the new model won’t come at any additional costs to rural communities.
“One of the concerns we hear from municipalities is they want to make sure if we go to an Alberta provincial police, it doesn’t cost them more,” he said, adding the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General are looking into the costs and how a community police force could work.
“We’re going to guarantee that this model would not cost them one cent more. We also want to work closely with Indigenous communities to make sure that they are supportive of a local provincial policing model that would massively improve responsiveness…”
Kenney noted that a study of the issue is in the works by Deloitte.