(Advocate file photo.)

Red Deer city council approves a broad review of police services in the city

Up to $200,000 will be spent looking at service levels and policing models

A policing review, costing up to $200,000, will be done in Red Deer to evaluate service levels and determine whether the RCMP or a municipal force is the best option for the city.

Although policing reviews of varying scopes have been done in 2003-04, 2011 and 2013, councillors felt the city’s population growth and public concerns over property crime warrant doing another broad-based study.

The review, approved by city council on Monday will not only look at how current policing services are provided, but also whether the RCMP is the best provider or whether a municipal police force should be formed — or a hybrid of both models.

Council unanimously approved a policing governance/delivery model review for up to $150,000. Most also approved Coun. Dianne Wyntjes’s amendment that an additional $50,000 be spent on undertaking a service levels review to determine which programs are working, which need improvement and which should be discontinued. (Coun. Vesna Higham did not support the amendment).

Coun. Michael Dawe summarized the sentiment of his peers by saying $200,000 is “a heck of a lot of money.” But he added the community has been struggling with significant crime concerns, so council is obliged to look for answers.

“I will strongly support the motion, so we can make those kind of hard-nosed critical decisions,” says Dawe.

Coun. Buck Buchanan recalled policing has been an ongoing concern for at least a decade, so “I’m all for everything and anything we can do to assure we are providing the best service levels.”

Coun. Handley first suggested doing a policing review during budget talks in January. She said she’s had emails from residents who feel council isn’t doing enough to tackle growing crime.

“This could not be further from the truth,” stressed Handley, who noted council has discussed the problem at many forums and workshops. She feels a policing review is the logical next step to try to get to the bottom of how well local policing is working.

Considering $37 million is spent annually on policing in the Red Deer (not just on RCMP officers, but facility costs, peace officers etc),$200,000 is less than one percent of the total, noted Mayor Tara Veer, who feels this is a worthwhile investment.

“It’s incumbent on us to know whether that money is spent in the best way possible,” added Veer, who made a point of expressing appreciation to the “men and women in uniform.”

No firm timeline was set for completion, but council was told it would take at least a year.

Supt. Ken Foster, of Red Deer RCMP, said he’s confident the force is doing a “fantastic job,” considering so many things are outside its parameters, including court decisions and government legislation.

But he welcomes a policing review, saying “it’s an opportunity for us” to inform the public and re-evaluate what the local RCMP does.


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