Alberta Municipalities reject provincial police force model; consultations continue

Alberta's municipal leaders voted this week to reject a provincial police force model the UCP government has been exploring. But that doesn't mean the proposal is down the drain. Morgan Black explores why the province is pushing forward with the concept.

At a recent gathering of local leaders, Alberta Municipalities members voted in opposition to the UCP government’s provincial police service proposal.

Alberta Municipalities’ Cathy Heron said Thursday it signalled “a resounding, ‘We do not approve of the current proposed model.'”

Premier Jason Kenney didn’t address the vote at the Spring Municipal Leaders’ Caucus but did note in a later news conference he believes there’s promise in a government-commissioned report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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“I think that rural Albertans… deserve the same kind of community policing that Edmontonians and Calgarians benefit from with their own local police services,” he said.

“We think there’s a lot of merit to this idea.”

It would cost Alberta hundreds of millions of dollars more to set up and run a provincial police force, but it ultimately could provide more cost-effective law enforcement, the report says.

A transition would take up to six years to complete.

Kenney said in round two of consultations on the prospect, discussions with municipal leaders continue.

“(The report) paints a picture of a much more holistic approach to community policing, incorporating social services, psychologists, abuse, substance abuse interventions (and) an alternative approach to enforcement on drugs to get people into treatment as opposed to into jail,” he said.

The premier also highlighted the guaranteed seats on a police commission for representatives of Indigenous people.

Temitope Oriola is a criminology professor at the University of Alberta.

He said he wasn’t surprised members voted in opposition to the proposal after citing cost concerns, structure and the relationship between municipalities.

“But there has been a rural discussion about improving those rural response times,” Oriola said. “They want more resources on the ground across rural Alberta.”

Oriola said the discussion about the proposal is an opportunity to reimagine what public safety looks like.

“One that has 50 per cent female representation, (diverse) representation,” he said.

“I am fascinated by how we create a 21st century police service, but I am also cognizant of the challenges of putting in a brand new police service.”

The professor said it’s clear more discussion is needed to figure out what could work for local and provincial leaders.

“Elections have consequences,” Oriola said. “I will also say it is important leadership listens to the followers. Therefore, conversations have to happen and must proceed from a position of knowledge.

“The public needs to have an understanding of the case for a provincial police service.”

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said he is committed to those conversations and noted no decisions have been made yet.

Heron, who is also the mayor of St. Albert, said she has a meeting with Shandro in April to discuss the matter further.

— With a file from The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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