A pair of City of Red Deer community peace officers will work closely with RCMP as part of a pilot project to give police additional support.
A memorandum of understanding was recently signed by the RCMP and city to train two community peace officers to take on minor investigations.
“Our project is quite comprehensive. We’re actually going to be doing non-urgent community calls,” said Peter Puszka, Red Deer’s superintendent of municipal policing, on Monday.
As one example, a community peace officer may step in and investigate mischief or vandalism to a building where the damage is less than $5,000. They could also be called in to investigate thefts where the value of the stolen goods is less than $5,000.
“Our community peace officers will respond to that and investigate that and be part of that response, freeing up RCMP resources to handle the more urgent community calls,” said Puszka.
The officers are getting additional training and will be equipped with radios tied into the encrypted Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System (AFRRCS) used by RCMP.
“We have to put them through special training. The training had to be approved by the RCMP and also by the provincial government for the peace officer program.
“We’re just in the final stages of getting that training done and it’s just all kind of coming together.”
“It’s a great project. We have been working at it to try to get it up and running for about a year now.”
The first peace officer is expected to begin working with the RCMP’s downtown unit by the beginning of August. The other will join the unit a little later.
“It gives us the ability to work in their unit downtown and to also work on their data system as well. We’ll have access to the RCMP data system and do investigations and record that information into their data system.
Red Deer currently has 14 peace officers, including a supervisor. Hiring is already underway to bring the number up to the full complement of 18 officers and a supervisor.
Puszka said if the pilot project is a success, community peace officers could be used to serve warrants or respond to vehicle collisions in which no one was injured.
The pilot project is expected to last a year, but it could be extended if the officers take on other duties such as responding to collisions or delivering Criminal Code warrants.
Alberta RCMP has been working on a number of pilot projects to improve co-operation with municipal enforcement departments.
Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) has been lobbying for better communications between RCMP and peace officers to improve safety. The RMA cited a number of incidents where peace officers to serious incidents did not have full information on what they were getting into.
One of the incidents pointed to was a car jacking at gun point that followed a collision with a school bus near Red Deer Regional Airport in January 2019. Because of communications gaps, the responding peace officers did not know that a suspect was armed and had carjacked the vehicle of a woman who had stopped at the scene to help.
The hope was that the pilot project would lead to changes in the system to allow all the province’s peace officers to be linked to RCMP’s radio system. Besides Red Deer, pilot projects have involved Clearwater County, Town of Okotoks, County of Grande Prairie, City of Grande Prairie and Foothills County.