After months of debate and discussion, City council has opted to keep the contract with the current RCMP policing model and implement small changes in future years.
“This isn’t about dollars and cents, it’s about common sense. Why should we change and is there a reason for change in our current model?” said Councillor Dianne Wyntjes.
Wyntjes said she heard comments from the public regarding the cost of a change to a municipal police force, questions as to why the City would change models as well as recognition that all models will present unique challenges.
If council had decided to change policing models to a municipal force, the start-up cost would have been between $7-11 million.
Councillor Buck Buchanan led the discussion on whether or not a hybrid model would be ideal for Red Deer.
“Several places in the report it talks about either/or, but I don’t think that is the answer. My preference would be a hybrid model.”
One of Buchanan’s concerns was regarding the fact that Red Deer may eventually have to look at switching to a municipal force.
“We started this study because we were hearing that people weren’t satisfied. We might get ourselves into a situation where we end up having to ask when is the time to change, or when do you just stay with the RCMP?” said Buchanan.
The public was brought into the discussion frequently and Councillor Tara Veer said that council heard repeatedly that safety and security were key issues.
“There is a great benefit to going with the RCMP because of the linkages with other communities. But there may be value in looking at a further enhanced hybrid model,” said Veer.
A hybrid model would simply be a combination between municipal police services and a contract remaining with the RCMP. As Councillor Cindy Jefferies pointed out it would allow more opportunity for input from council than a strictly municipal force would.
“I don’t think that the issues we may have had from time to time with the RCMP would go away with a switch to municipal policing,” said Jefferies.
Jefferies said the public, as well as council and all involved, need to see that there is no model in which there will be no issues. “That’s highly unlikely because humans are involved.”
Councillor Chris Stephan said that outside of budget discussions this is the single largest decision that council has faced.
“Crime has been among the top concerns in our community and we know from the report that drug use and trafficking has been one of the root causes of a lot of the criminal activity,” said Stephan.
Council all agreed that it is an important issue and Veer pointed out that the City already has a somewhat hybrid model with the RCMP working with other local services.
Councillor Paul Harris said he acknowledges that a switch to municipal policing may be down the road, but there are other changes that need to be made first.
“The recommendations that are in the report need to be followed through before we make any kind of shift. We can revisit it again after we adopt the principals and determine whether it is or isn’t the policing model,” said Harris.
The decision passed to remain with the current RCMP contract with only Buchanan and Stephan opposed.
“This is the single biggest impact decision that Council has made,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.