Almost eight decades of law enforcement history in the City of Red Deer will soon disappear.
The Red Deer rural RCMP detachment, located at 4300 55 St., is now preparing for its historic move 12 kms north up Hwy. 2A to Blackfalds, which at more than 5,600 citizens is getting its first municipal police force in its history.
The detachment will even lose its name. When it officially moves into its spanking brand new quarters next spring it will no longer be known as the Red Deer rural RCMP. It will be known as the Blackfalds RCMP detachment.
“I think it is a big next step for Blackfalds having this RCMP detachment located here. It is one of those services that people have an expectation to have,” said Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol. “While the (rural) RCMP in Red Deer did a great job for us people know that if there is an emergency those RCMP officers were hampered by being in Red Deer in trying to get to us.”
The new Blackfalds facility, which will have a total floor space of almost 20,000 sq.-ft. at its new five-acre site in the south end of town, is halfway to being completed. It will house the new RCMP detachment and the town fire department. The budget for the Blackfalds RCMP side of the building is $3,948,000 while the new fire department quarters will cost just over $3.6 million.
The Red Deer rural RCMP is transferring its 15-member police force, plus three support staff, to begin its new era in Blackfalds. As well, the Mounties will have an additional traffic unit of up to seven members. The town fire department will bring a total of 23 members in the new building.
“The Town of Blackfalds could not have purchased a better piece of property to allow the location,” said S. Sgt. Gord Glasgow, the commander of the Red Deer rural RCMP detachment. “We have very quick access to Highway 2, to Highway 2A and very quick access to Highway 597. That site has quick access to all those locations.”
Glasgow said his detachment in the City of Red Deer is already in the process of moving. Town of Blackfalds officials are aiming for an official opening in April.
“There is a huge benefit of having a police station in your community. Visibility is always important. People have a sense of safety when they see police cars,” said Glasgow. “The more activity you have in and out of your community from a law enforcement perspective the more people are comfortable with that.”
RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson, who is the overall commanding officer of both the city and rural Red Deer detachments, said the move “makes a lot of practical sense” as response times to emergencies will be much faster in Blackfalds, especially because transportation issues in and out of the City of Red Deer has been more difficult in recent years due to its growth.
Equally important, said Simpson, the new detachment will have an opportunity to form a greater connection to a community, which he says was also difficult in its long history because it was responsible for covering such a large rural and mostly under populated area.
There has been a rural RCMP presence originating from the City of Red Deer since 1932, when the national police force took over from the old Alberta Provincial Police.
Rural Mounties were first quartered with City RCMP officers in the old Courthouse downtown. RCMP members later moved to the former public library, then to the Snell Block at 4930 Gaetz Ave. and again to the old downtown Federal Building. In 1971, the Red Deer rural RCMP detachment moved into its current city address at 4300 – 55 St.
At one time, rural RCMP members from the City of Red Deer were tasked with policing an area that was even larger than its current coverage of 2,072 sq.-kms of Central Alberta. Before the Town of Sylvan Lake obtained its own RCMP detachment in 1979, the Red Deer rural RCMP detachment was responsible for policing the resort, as well as Eckville and Benalto, both of which are now handled by the Sylvan Lake detachment.
Even though the new RCMP detachment will still retain a huge geographical responsibility for many people outside of Blackfalds, town officials are nevertheless thrilled at the prospect of having a police force they can call their own.
“I think people are excited that it is coming. I am very happy with the progress so far. We are still on target for that spring of 2011 opening we are shooting for,” said Stol, adding the project has also created new job opportunities and will open the door for more educational programs for the town.
“We thank everyone for their patience,” said the mayor noting the project has created traffic and road closure inconveniences . “Huge projects like this require cooperation from everybody.”