The Alberta Government recently released a new website which outlines what a provincial police service could look like.
The government has recently started exploring potentially starting an Alberta police service, which would mean that the RCMP would no longer be the primary police force in Alberta. The RCMP would still have a role as the federal police force focusing on cyber crimes, human trafficking and organized crime, but the contract policing would fall on the provincial police's shoulders.
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro believes a provincial police service would better serve Alberta's communities.
"We have these regional mid sized urbans that are in the north and the south, whether it's Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, we have larger small urbans than you would see in places like Saskatchewan or Manitoba, and I think a lot of that distribution of our population mean we have very specific needs."
Shandro pointed to several benefits he believes could happen, like keeping some forensics in province, improving Albertan databases, expanding Alert's services, more involvement with recruitment and training, and civilian oversight. Shandro stressed the importance of civilian oversight particularly.
"Having civilian oversight over the budget, having civilian oversight over the deployment of resources, over the complaint system. Having that modern governance of police is incredibly important. Particularly when we see the scrutiny of the profession over the last 5 years, and people demanding that the profession grow and have that modern civilian oversight."
The RCMP isn't trained in Alberta, but the provincial police would be, which Shandro believes would prepare officers for Alberta specific problems. He added the RCMP has not been able to provide great service to all communities, which he hopes would change under the provincial service.
"When you look at Public Safety Canada's website, they admit that they're failing our communities. The RCMP is distracted, it has its own role, and to also do contract policing, they just don't have the bandwidth to provide our community with the resources they need."
To provide the necessary resources, Shandro pointed towards civilian oversight. By being in control of our own resources, Shandro says they want the minimum amount of officers to be 10 per detachment. Some detachments only have 3-5 officers, meaning 40 per cent of the 113 detachments in Alberta would be seeing an increase.
While a jump that big seems impossible to hit for so many detachments, Shandro explained that it all comes down to distribution.
"We quite frankly need fewer officers deployed into an administrative role or into a headquarters, and actually deployed into our rural communities."
According to Shandro, getting out of the RCMP contract is something both the province and the Federal Government want. The Federal Government pays for 30 per cent of Alberta's RCMP costs, and if the contract is removed it is unknown if Alberta would continue to receive a subsidy. That will be discovered if the province decides to move forward with provincial policing and negotiate with the Federal Government.
"We don't know what would happen, if the Federal Government would continue with their subsidy if we move forward with the provincial police. But we do know this: we are halfway through a 20 year agreement that started in 2012, but even when we were negotiating with the Federal Government back in 2007, the Federal Government even back then tried to get out of that subsidy. So the provinces kicked up a storm, and we ended up getting that subsidy in the provincial policing servicing agreement (PPSA). But we know that the Federal Government wants out of this subsidy anyways."
"The RCMP is our federal police service, and I think one of the reasons why the Federal Government has been saying they've been trying to get out of contract policing for years is that they would want the RCMP to just focus on what their core functions are supposed to be, which is cyber crime, human trafficking, organized crime."
A transition study report done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers Canada in 2020 reports that the transition would cost between $336 to $371 million.
There has been some pushback, with 70 municipalities sending a letter to Premier Jason Kenney to keep the RCMP. Shandro acknowledged these complaints, but stressed the importance of discussing the issue, especially since a decision has not been made yet.
"We've seen some municipalities who are sending correspondence to me or the Premier or both, who say 'stop talking about this. I want you to just put a bullet in this and I want this conversation to end'. And I don't think they realize that even if we as a cabinet and society decided not to proceed at this time, that doesn't make this conversation go away at any time."
"This is not a partisan issue, and it's regrettable that there are folks who want to make it a partisan issue. But an all party committee in BC is recommending getting out of contract policing for the RCMP, Saskatchewan, PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, every jurisdiction that has contract policing except Manitoba is looking at this. And the Federal Government."
Shandro explained that Premier Kenney would not make any major policy changes before his retirement in October, so the decision will not be up to him. Rather, it would come down to whether or not the new UCP leader and premier would like to move forward. For now, Shandro is focused on hearing what Albertans think.
"We have to make sure that we continue to engage with people, fulfill that obligation that we made, and make sure that people understand what is actually the opportunity, and then we can have that insightful feedback from Albertans."