March 1st, 2024

Year in Review: Busy 2023, plenty of change for Medicine Hat Police Service and its new chief

By Brendan Miller on December 27, 2023.

In 2023, police say they have seen an increase in violent crimes and online and telephone scams but have seen a decrease in property crimes.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

A busy year for the Medicine Hat Police Service as they welcomed a new chief of police, hired seven new officers and replaced two service dogs. Officers have been busy dealing with an increase in violent crimes and online and phone scams. And the service entered into a partnership with Medicine Hat College to study and advance its drone program.

Police say they have responded to more violent crime events this year. Police Chief Alan Murphy says they are seeing a trend and most violent crime events are contained to people who know each other.

“It’s less concerning to the community when it’s not unknown people are doing this for no reason at all,” says Murphy.

However, there were two serious assaults that occurred where the victims did not know the suspects who assaulted them. Police were able to make arrests and lay charges in both investigations.

Online and telephone scams have become more frequent this year. In November police charged a local man in connection to a ‘Grandparent Scam’ operating in the community. This scam involves a caller pretending to be a grandchild or family member who is in need of money immediately.

“It’s a shame that these folks in our community are being targeted in that way. But that is the nature of the frauds we see now,” says Murphy.

Police say property crime and thefts have been decreasing over the past couple years and 2023 continued that trend.

The service’s partnership with ALERT and the RCMP has led to several large-scale drug and weapon seizures in the region, making city streets safer for everyone. ALERT tends to focus on organized crime and limits the amount of illegal drugs and weapons that get into the community.

In October a lengthy drug trafficking and firearms investigation involving six homes in Brooks led police to the seizure of $65,000 worth of drugs and two 3D-printed hand guns. In May ALERT executed a search warrant in Crescent Heights that led to the seizure of $50,000 worth of drugs, a sawed-off shotgun and two replica firearms.

“I can’t say enough about ALERT and what they’re able to do to work with us, and then obviously the province of Alberta for funding and making that possible,” says Murphy.

The service hired seven new officers who graduated from a demanding 24-week training program that concluded in March. The new officers have been out on the street since the start of summer.

“They’ve been a great addition. Anytime new cadets come to an organization it just brings some fresh views and a lot of positivity,” says Murphy.

The Police Officer Cadet Training Program in Medicine Hat gives cadets training in firearms, problem solving, de-escalation and team work and is taught by local senior training officers.

“It’s very positive to have new police officers joining us, and I think our members in our building that do the training really enjoyed it as well. They get to train new police officers who are the future of this organization,” says Murphy.

Next winter police will be looking to hire four more officers through their next cadet class.

Dogs play an important role in police work. Their skills are used to track and apprehend criminals on the frontline but they also support and comfort victims of various crimes. Following the retirement of a K9 unit this year, MHPS brought on a new police service dog named Bronx.

“It’s important for crime prevention and catching those responsible for crime as well. So it’s another tool we have to get the job done,” says Murphy.

A Labrador retriever named Glory has joined the force under the facility dog program and is training to help support victims when they go to court. Glory will replace Mulder who is getting ready to retire after eight years of service.

This year the MHPS entered into a partnership with Medicine Hat College to study the overall effectiveness of utilizing drones in policing. They are looking to see how drones impact police response to events or emergencies. MHPS has been using drones to aid in investigations since 2020.

“I know personally this year they have been involved in a number of significant events that we were able to conclude hours faster than we would have been able to without the drones. So I think it’s a great program,” says Murphy.

On Jan. 20 Alan Murphy was officially sworn-in as the 24th chief of police after serving 27 years with the Edmonton Police Service where he reached the rank of deputy chief.

“I can honestly tell you that I think my family and I made the right move to come to Medicine Hat,” says Murphy. “It’s been very exciting. We love living here. It’s a great community.”

Murphy says he’s extremely proud of all sworn and civilian members of the service in keeping the city a safe place.

“They do a great job of being professional and getting the job done and looking after our community. There’s nothing more I can’t say enough about what they do and, God, they do a great job,” says Murphy.

“I just want to wish on behalf of the men and women of the Medicine Hat Police Service. I want to wish everybody in our community a safe, happy and healthy Holiday Season. This is a great community and I just want to wish everybody the best now and during the season and going into 2024.”

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