The City of Red Deer has reaffirmed its support for the RCMP, leaving Supt. Gerald Grobmeier relieved to be “moving forward” with the job of cracking down on crime.
“It’s a vote of confidence in the RCMP, and our members are happy knowing they have a home in Red Deer,” said the city’s top RCMP officer.
Grobmeier admitted it’s been difficult on RCMP officers to work under the uncertainty of a review that could have replaced the force with a municipal police service.
“It’s hard to work if you don’t know if you’ll be here or not… We ask our members to do more and be part of the community, and then they ask: will they really be part of the community?
“It’s hard to motivate people and it’s hard on morale,” Grobmeier added — so he’s pleased that council voted 6-3 on Tuesday to stick with the RCMP.
He predicted the majority of local police officers would otherwise have had to leave the city: “Police officers who want to work for a municipal force would be already working for a municipal force.”
The majority of city councillors determined that switching to a municipal police service wasn’t worth the disruption and extra expense, especially at this time of high crime and a slow economy.
Even the three councillors who wanted a change, based on discontent that the national force is not quick in adapting to change, praised Red Deer city RCMP members for their local crime-fighting efforts.
Grobmeier said he’s always open to taking on new challenges and innovations. For example, Red Deer RCMP are in the midst of a pilot project with K Division in Edmonton, testing the advantages of a new way of doing police business.
Instead of front-line police officers rushing back to the detachment to do their own paperwork on each crime case, police officers are now calling in this information to a civilian police employee who is filling out the required forms.
Grobmeier feels this not only frees up front-line police officers to stay on the street looking for criminals, but the data is more consistently and thoroughly recorded, which helps make a better case in court.
This system was started in a few small detachments, and now is proving quite effective in Red Deer’s larger detachment, he added.
If the decision is made to carry on with this method of data entry after the pilot project is completed in January or February, Grobmeier said more decisions will have to be made about who will be collecting information for police officers.
Will K-Division staff continue doing it, or is there a way of rejigging the duties of civilian employees in Red Deer?
Given the state of the city’s lean 2020 operating budget, he understands more local hiring is unlikely.
The superintendent acknowledged that “some things take longer” with the RCMP than some people might like. For instance, the force is still rolling out android phones to its members.
On the other hand, Grobmeier said each detachment does have some leeway to make positive changes at the local level.
A few years ago, the Red Deer city detachment became the first to bring in a small robot to help lessen the discomfort of young crime victims who have to testify at the police station.
The robot, called ARD-E, is only a couple of feet high, and can sing and dance as it tells kids what they can expect.
“It walks them through the court system,” said Grobmeier, who noted this robot was first used to comfort children in hospitals.
When the local victims services team thought it would help in their area as well, money was found to purchase it. He believes ARD-E has been a benefit to many “traumatized” children.
Grobmeier said he’s looking forward to working with city administration to incorporate local priorities into the next annual policing plan in April.