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Province’s online survey on Albert Police Act changes finished

Rural municipalities would like to see a greater say in policing

An Alberta government survey that will be used to help update the police act closed on Monday.

The online survey was announced by Justice Minister Kaycee Madu on Dec. 3 and is designed to get Albertans thoughts on how they see the role of police in the community, the processes for handling public complaints and officer discipline.

Government representatives have also been meeting with law enforcement, Indigenous groups, social service and health sector representatives and municipalities.

Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin said communities and groups within them, such as Citizens on Patrol, Rural Crime Watch organizations and business groups want to play a bigger role in public safety.

“I think one of our key messages is we’re definitely looking into some local input into policing,” said McLauchlin, who is reeve of Ponoka County.

One of the survey questions asks who ideally should make the decisions about how citizens are policed. Choices offered run from citizens making all the decisions to police and government making all decisions, with various levels of co-operation in between.

McLauchlin said the government’s move last year to make rural municipalities and small communities pay a portion of policing costs — starting at 10 per cent and increasing to 30 per cent in several years — has also motivated the desire for greater local input.

There have been many successes from communities and police detachments working together, he said.

“It’s really just ensuring that (co-operation) is part of the system,” he said.

Counties and municipal districts also want to ensure that legislation takes into account that rural policing is much different than law enforcement in large urban centres. In rural areas, where officers must cover huge areas, input from residents and local organizations plays a big role, he said.

Madu said the Alberta Police Act has not had a significant update since it was introduced in 1988.

The public survey and its nearly two dozen questions ask respondents for their perceptions of how police go about their jobs.

Respondents are asked if they believe police make decisions based on facts, treat people with respect, provide the same quality of service to all and whether they are dealing with things that matter to the community.

The government says it expects to present its proposed changes to the police act by the fall.

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