Replacing the RCMP with a municipal police force would cost Red Deer taxpayers up to $13.5 million and take two to four years, according to a policing review presented Tuesday.
This hefty cost is attributed to having to buy a fleet of municipal police vehicles and equipment, setting up a municipal dispatch system, and losing out on some economies of scale in current RCMP purchasing.
A comparison of different policing models was prepared by KPMG consulting and presented at a special city council meeting.
The $200,000 review found that annual police operating costs would also be higher if council chose to replace the RCMP with a municipal police force.
The projected estimate was $50 million in 2023, compared to $43.7 million for the RCMP. One reason would be the loss of a 10 per cent subsidy, said consultant Tim Swanson.
There were advantages found for making the change, which would necessitate the city creating a new arms’-length policing commission: The city would have full ability to determine how police services are deployed, and could set and manage service levels and accountability standards better than with the RCMP, which also answers to K-Division in Edmonton.
However, council was told the RCMP now has timely access to specialized units, training and other resources at no incremental cost, and there’s a seamless sharing of services and assets as part of a national police force.
When it comes to the city’s existing police service, the review found RCMP costs were in line with average policing costs for 11 comparison municipalities — even though this city has the highest crime index.
City council heard that Red Deer‘s 2018 per capita police cost of $380 was well below that of Grande Prairie, Calgary and Edmonton, which respectively pay $429, $411 and $489 per capita for their municipal forces.
Lethbridge’s municipal force costs slightly less at $374 per capita. The average was $389.
Red Deer‘s RCMP detachment has higher caseloads per employee and the lowest ratio of civilian staffers among the 11 cities studied, which also includes Medicine Hat, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Strathcona County, Halifax and the B.C. cities of Surrey, Richmond and Langley.
However, while there was a positive police “clearance rate“ on violent crimes, there was less resolution on petty crimes due to drug use and social disorder.
Council was told the city is heading in the right direction by trying to focus on reducing the root causes of these offences, which can’t just be solved solely by enforcement.
Consultant Sean Sparling praised the Red Deer RCMP’s high public satisfaction rating and success with its Pinpoint program, which tracks the movements of known prolific criminals to explore potential links with new crime hot spots.
But he found some areas in need of improvement. For instance, he said other jurisdictions are already using privatized companies to deal with collision reporting and criminal record checks to free up more police officers to focus on more serious cases.