More than 70 rural municipalities have spoken against the UCP's proposed provincial police service replacing the RCMP, and Mayor Pat Fule has joined the list of those that are concerned this could negatively impact our community.
Fule said he doesn't speak for the entirety of town council, but as the mayor and an Albertan, he is worried that replacing the RCMP with a provincial police would leave Strathmore in a difficult spot financially.
"The province hasn't really been upfront with how much of the funding of a new provincial police force each municipality would have to do. We're aware of what we have to do right now with the federal police force, but there's so many unknowns about what will be our percentage of funding, what will be the province's, where will the officers come from, there's just so many unknowns. Until we see the exact costs of everything it's a cause of concern for me."
While a study done by the UCP says the costs of starting a new provincial police service would be around $336-371 million, Fule is worried this estimate hasn't accounted for everything that would have to change to make the switch away from the RCMP.
"I don't know if they (the UCP) know the full price that's going to be attached to switching to a provincial police force. For example, in every municipality that has an RCMP detachment, the Federal Government provides a detachment building, and those are federally owned. So if we move to a provincial police force, where does that leave the town of Strathmore, as far as 'do we have to pay for the cost of building a new detachment building', as that could be millions of dollars."
It's not just the potential new building that is concerning though.
"What about providing vehicles for the officers? Weapons, body armor, body cameras, uniforms, and tactical units that would be needed to support the regular provincial members. What about the nationwide computer system? Forensics? There are so many things that we have right now with the current RCMP. My own feeling is that we should be working with the RCMP to tweak and improve and move forward together."
The potential of a financial burden is a main concern of Fule's, but he also brought up that he believes the Strathmore RCMP has been great, and they've been very open to working with the community to make necessary improvements and increase their community presence. Fule brought up the Watch Clerk program, which has a designated person on the computer handling most of the case filing, searches, and other computer efforts. This means the RCMP officers have more time on their hands to patrol Strathmore and surrounding areas. This is just one way the RCMP has improved its services without needing to be replaced by an entirely new service.
"We've found ways in Strathmore to improve the policing by working with the RCMP, and again I'm just very impressed with our local detachment."
Ultimately, Fule believes in the RCMP, and believes that our Strathmore detachment has been willing to work with the town to continue to improve and do what's needed to best serve the community.
"The RCMP has been doing a lot to stand up and do the right things and to work in our communities, and I think if we could work at tweaking that, it would be a very good thing because we're getting all that already. I just believe we can do more with what we have, and the RCMP is receptive to working with us to improve things."
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