A history of the RCMP in Red Deer

The RCMP took over the City’s policing at an initial annual cost of $5,000

Seventy-five years ago, in April 1943, there was a significant change in policing in Red Deer. After more than 40 years of existence, the Red Deer police department was disbanded. City council then signed a contract with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to provide municipal policing.

The RCMP has almost always had a presence in the community. After the establishment of the Force in 1874, there were periodic patrols through the area from police posts of Southern Alberta and Fort Saskatchewan.

In 1886, a detachment of 13 Mounted Police were stationed at Fort Normandeau, just west of the current site of the City. The fort had been built by the Canadian military the year before during the Riel Rebellion, although it had never seen any action during that conflict.

Fortunately, there was very little crime in the Red Deer area. Consequently, the size of the detachment was soon cut in half. However, the fort remained the main police post for Central Alberta until 1893, when the detachment moved into the new hamlet of Red Deer.

In 1901, when Red Deer was incorporated as a town, the new Town Council decided that Red Deer should have its own municipal police force. For many years, that police “department” was very modest. There was generally just a police chief and one or two additional constables, with one of those covering the night shift.

Meanwhile, the RCMP (or Royal North West Mounted Police. as it was then known) continued to have one or two constables stationed in Red Deer. They were responsible for the serious criminal cases and for policing of the surrounding rural areas.

Beginning in 1909, Red Deer entered a tremendous boom period. The Town’s population surged from a few hundred to almost 3,000. Unfortunately, along with the boom, crime rates rose dramatically. The most serious incident occurred in June 1911 when a drifter shot and nearly killed Police Chief George Bell.

The Town had problems not only with criminals, but with its beefed-up police department. Many of the members of the department often did not get along very well with each other. Two constables had to resign after they drew guns on each other during an argument in a bar. In 1912, the police chief was dismissed for unprofessional conduct following a fist fight he got into with a civilian.

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Support Groups at CMHA provide opportunities for people to share their personal experiences in dealing with situations that have altered their lives. Our support groups are based on sharing among people who have “been there, done that” supplemented with information from experienced and empathetic professionals. Caregiver Connections is a Tuesday evening group for parents and caregivers of children and young adults experiencing a mental health concern. Friendship Circle is a Wednesday afternoon group for individuals who have experienced emotional distress or mental illness. Both meet at the Canadian Mental Health Association Learning Annex, First Red Deer Place (ATB Building), 4911 – 51 Street, Suite 404 in downtown Red Deer. There is no fee for either group. Call CMHA at 403-342-2266 for more information or visit the CMHA web site at http://reddeer.cmha.ca/support-groups/.

The outbreak of the First World War resulted in a manpower shortage as most young men in the community enlisted and went overseas. The War also caused severe problems for the City with its budget. The police force was reduced to the police chief, one constable and one night constable.

Fortunately, criminal activity also dropped to almost insignificant levels. Only two people were incarcerated in the police cells in all of 1917. Automobile infractions and Prohibition (illegal sale and consumption of alcohol) offences were the main remaining problems.

In 1917, the RCMP was replaced in the province by the Alberta Provincial Police. Like the Mounties before them, the Red Deer detachment of the A.P.P. took responsibility for the more serious criminal cases and policing in rural areas.

In 1932, massive budget cuts by the Provincial Government resulted in the A.P.P. being disbanded. The Red Deer detachment was taken over by the RCMP again. However, with ongoing federal budget cuts, Red Deer was often covered by constables from other communities.

The outbreak of the Second World War eased the financial problems, but created new ones in the form of manpower shortages. The City found it next to impossible to recruit constables. The Red Deer police department was consequently disbanded.

Hence, in 1943, the RCMP took over the City’s policing at an initial annual cost of $5,000. The cost of the police contract has increased greatly over the years as the size of the detachment has also been increased. There are also three RCMP stations in the City – the main detachment office on 45th St., a smaller office on 67th St. and regional offices on 55th St.

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