Mounties in central Alberta say they will not be charging a homeowner who shot and killed an intruder who broke into his home and beat him with a baseball bat. (Photo by Advocate Staff)

Opinion: Kenney turns Red Deer area shooting tragedy into renewed call for provincial police service

On the afternoon of Aug. 2, a Penhold couple called 9-1-1 after returning home to find an intruder asleep on their bed while their two teenaged children hid nearby. When RCMP officers arrived only ten minutes later, the intruder had attacked and injured the father with a baseball bat, and he ultimately shot the intruder while defending his family and property.

We empathize deeply with the family, and particularly the father. As police officers, we know the psychological trauma he is now facing all too well and hope he and his family are all getting the support they need. Despite this trauma, they have been publicly very complimentary of the RCMP’s professionalism and handling of the incident.

Only days later, in response to questions about the incident, Premier Jason Kenney made the callous choice to turn this family’s tragic event and the highly professional work of our members into a renewed call to create a provincial police service in Alberta, and his latest conjecture that municipalities won’t pay a penny more for this new service.

Absent any financial analysis or other details, what’s most concerning is the manner in which he tried to spin this to his political advantage.

First, he railed on our members’ 10-minute response time – which actually meets or exceeds rural response times – saying he believes a community policing model would improve this.

While this response time was exceptional, the fact remains that faster response times are not the only key to reducing crime – which takes a combination of focused and bold legislation and better social support systems in place, which we and our members have publicly supported.

And second, he falsely suggested that there has been an increase in rural break and enter incidents.

In fact, through Project Lock-Up, an RCMP-led anti-rural crime program launched in 2019, RCMP Community Engagement and Outreach Specialists work directly with crime victims to deter future crimes. And it’s successful: at the end of 2020, repeated property crimes decreased by over 55 per cent in Alberta, break and enters are down by 17 per cent, and motor vehicle thefts are down by almost 20 per cent. Overall, in actual numbers, Project Lock-Up has resulted in 14,230 fewer property crime offences and 21,285 fewer total Criminal Code offences in rural areas in 2020.

Justice Minister Madu recently hosted a mini-roadshow in select locations across the province to gauge residents’ concerns and interests on issues related to rural crime and policing.

We know that the federal government contributes roughly $160 million to Alberta’s provincial policing each year, which taxpayers and municipalities would immediately need to backfill. Based on experience in other jurisdictions, replacing the RCMP would cost Albertans more taxes for less services than they currently receive.

The Government of Alberta has already spent $2 million on a secret report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – submitted end of April 2021 – which remains tucked away from public view despite government’s promise to release it and our call for them to honour that commitment.

Last Friday, Kenney also confirmed that a new study to further review the issue is in the works by a rival accounting firm but did not confirm the cost of this second report.

How much more time and money will you waste before you show us the facts, premier?

Kevin Halwa, Michelle Boutin and Jeff McGowan are regional directors of the National Police Federation, a labour union, which was certified to represent 20,000 RCMP members serving across Canada and internationally in the summer of 2019. The NPF is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada; the second largest in North America and is the first independent national association to represent RCMP members.