By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on February 13, 2024.
The City of Brooks has applied for a grant looking to evaluate the possibility of municipal policing in the city and Newell County region.
The grant, the Alberta Indigenous and Municipal Police Transition Grant, is a one-time grant that would provide for a feasibility study to look into different models of policing for the area.
“For a little background, I think these grants started when the government was looking at an Alberta Police Force. They opened it up for communities to kind of study policing,” said Brooks Mayor John Petrie. “At this point, it doesn’t look like there are plans for a provincial police force, but the grants are still available.”
This study is planned to be conducted through the Joint Services Committee, said Petrie, which consists of Brooks, the County of Newell, Duchess, Bassano and Rosemary, with all five municipalities coming together to have the study done for policing in the area.
“For Brooks, a lot of times, policing costs are one of our biggest expenditures, no different than what it would be in the City of Medicine Hat, and RCMP would be one of our biggest expenses,” said Petrie. “So a lot of times we weigh the difference. Should we get another RCMP officer, or should we have a community police officer?”
Another driving force behind the study, said Petrie, was rumours that the federal government may be looking to get out of contract policing. While he adds that speaking to RCMP on the local level has gotten affirmation of their commitment to contract policing, if it would end, municipalities would need to arrange for their own enforcement.
“The thing is, if the RCMP get out of contract policing, they do have to sort of give us time, I believe at least three years,” said Petrie. “So the problem with doing a survey now is that it might be redundant by the time it actually happens, but it’s a good reflection on our policing services, where it is and where it should be going.”
The City of Brooks and surrounding area have a good relationship with the RCMP, said Petrie, and have very few problems with how things are run, but it’s an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of different models of policing that they are looking forward to seeing the results of.
“Because we’re a municipality under 15,000 people we pay for 70 per cent of the RCMP costs while the federal government takes care of the other 30 per cent. Now, if we were over 15,000, we would pay for 90 per cent, and the federal government pays 10 per cent,” said Petrie. “Whereas in the City of Medicine Hat, the taxpayers pay for 100 per cent of their police costs, because they have their own police force. But the city also has more control over things like equipment, whether it be body cams or guns and things like that.”
Brooks is not currently looking to replace the RCMP detachment, said Petrie, merely take a look at the state of policing within the region and review options, as well as learn what would be required of them should they need to create their own police force in the future.