(Advocate file photo).

Red Deer city council dedicates $730,000 for additional police resources over two years

Dedicated officer for child advocacy centre would start in the fall

The Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre will get a dedicated RCMP officer this year, while Red Deer‘s on track to get more policing resources in 2020.

While Red Deer city councillors generally agreed that more police officers doesn’t necessarily guarantee a safe community, they approved $730,000 over two years for policing needs at Friday’s budget talks.

With the opioid crisis continuing, and safety still being the highest public priority, ”it’s not the time to take the foot off the gas,” said Coun. Vesna Higham.

“We need to be pedal to the metal in addressing social disorder issues in our community.”

Only $40,000 of the approved total will be funded out of 2019 taxes, however. The remaining $690,000 will be out of the 2020 budget.

The smaller amount will pay the salary (from October to December) for a specialized police officer who can help child abuse victims at the new child advocacy centre.

Although this extra RCMP officer will be hired as soon as possible, council heard it can take six to 12 months to get a new officer in the city and on the job.

Several councillors expressed the need to give the advocacy centre all needed resources to help child victims and prosecute abusers. “The faster the better,” said Coun. Ken Johnston.

Coun. Tanya Handley said she has heard centre staff say that working with various police officers, who don’t necessarily have expertise in dealing with young victims, is not optimum.

Handley stressed the importance of getting a dedicated, experienced RCMP member who can quickly handle these cases, so that trauma is minimized for children.

Since there’s a lag between when additional police officers are requested and when they show up to work in Red Deer, city manager Craig Curtis recommended council also be proactive by pre-approving some funding for expanded policing in 2020.

The $690,000 that council slotted ahead for this purpose will potentially pay for two additional officers and two municipal employees to assist with paperwork.

Curtis said council does not have to decide exactly how this police money is spent at this time, since many councillors did not want to preempt the results of a policing review that’s underway.

Councillors all voted in favour of spending more on local policing resources — except for Coun. Buck Buchanan.

The retired police officer said he isn’t sure more police officers are needed. Buchanan suggested that policing priorities should instead be assessed.

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