Penhold not happy no new Mounties coming this year

Innisfail detachment, which serves Penhold, not on list of those getting new officers this year

Penhold got a $62,000 policing bill this year, and town council is wondering what the community is getting for its money.

Dismay was voiced at this week’s town council meeting that none of the 43 new RCMP hires announced by the province earlier this month were heading to the Innisfail detachment, which covers the town.

“I would say a bit of frustration,” is how Mayor Mike Yargeau summed up the feeling around the council table.

“Obviously, this is a requisition the province has imposed upon us, and the way they sold it was for boots on the ground and increased policing for small communities.

“Our residents are expecting that, because that is what they were told, and we’re not seeing that yet.”

The town has raised its concerns with the Innisfail RCMP detachment commander, who said additional help is coming next year.

“But that doesn’t change the fact, we’re paying $62,000 this year and we’re going to pay even more next year,” said the mayor.

Penhold and other small communities under 5,000 people, and rural municipalities, were told last year that for the first time, they must pick up a portion of policing costs. Municipalities have to pay 10 per cent of costs this year, increasing to 30 per cent by 2023.

Yargeau said the officers out of the Innisfail detachment are doing a good job — and a recent police satisfaction survey shows residents feel safe — but they are stretched thin.

“They cover a large area for the amount of officers they have, that’s why we were hoping to get some more.”

It is hoped that if additional officers are posted to Innisfail, that at least one is dedicated to patrolling Penhold, said Yargeau.

“Presence is the biggest thing. In small communities, we just don’t feel that presence as much because they just don’t have the officers.”

Innisfail RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Chris Matechuk said he will be getting an administration position this year and is scheduled to get an additional officer for the 17-member detachment next year.

The position is not expected to be dedicated to Penhold. However, the entire detachment area benefits when officer numbers are boosted, he said.

Town council voted to send letters to Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen and Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer to lobby for more policing help.

Of 46 new positions announced — 43 officers and three support staff — 25 are frontline rural police positions, including 10 in central Alberta.

Rocky Mountain House is getting two new officers and one each are going to Camrose, Blackfalds, Leduc, Morinville, Parkland, Stettler, Strathcona and Thorsby.

Eighteen officers are expected to be based out of Edmonton and Calgary and will provide support and specialized services to rural detachments. Three civilian positions have been added to provide administrative and program support.

In all, 76 RCMP officers and 57 new civilian support positions are expected to be added during the province’s 2020-21 budget year. Eventually, 300 officers and 200 civilians will be hired.

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