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HomeNews'Boots on the ground' an issue in rural policing: Minister Ellis

‘Boots on the ground’ an issue in rural policing: Minister Ellis

Funding is not the issue when it comes to policing in rural Alberta but rather a boots-on-the-ground problem according to the province.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis says the Alberta RCMP is approved to have 19,011 members, but there are currently only 14,098 leaving just shy of 5,000 spots vacant. Ellis says despite the roles remaining vacant, they are still being paid for.

“The solution on recruitment is with the contract service provider, which is the RCMP,” Ellis says.

He adds that the RCMP is working to increase their recruitment by doing things he says they have never done before including attempting to station recruits in their home province if possible. Ellis says by doing this it is helping the RCMP meet the needs of a younger generation. However, even with these recruitment efforts, there are still some areas that do not have 24/7 coverage.

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“It is not for a lack of support for the RCMP, and this is not just a problem that they are having in Alberta but throughout Canada.”

Ellis says this is where the province is focusing on augmenting and supporting these rural communities through actions such as Bill 11, the Public Safety and Emergency Service Statutes Amendment Act. An independent police agency would be created through this bill to help augment and support other police agencies in the province through police-like functions that are being performed by the Alberta Sheriffs. He explains this will help so when those in some rural Alberta communities call 911 and there is a sheriff that is five minutes away versus an RCMP officer that is two hours away the sheriff can answer the call.

“You have talked to me about boots on the ground, and officer presence matters, and there are times that in some areas in rural Alberta that there is no coverage and if I know that then you know that those wanting to commit the crimes know that as well.”

As well Ellis explains that municipalities can also apply for a $30,000 grant to examine options for the future of their communities and survey the needs of their community. He says this allows the municipality to decide what is best for their community because it is not as easy as just “writing out a check to fix the issues.”

“Grande Prairie kudos to them, they did a very thorough study on what was best for their community. So they saw that they could get more coverage for cheaper and that is why you are seeing them move forward with a Grande Prairie Police Force.”

According to the minister, these measures are areas that the province can focus on to help augment the issues until all the authorized RCMP positions are filled.

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