Grande Prairie city council will decide on March 6th whether it will press forward with trying to replace the RCMP with a municipal police force. In a special Council and Committee of the Whole Tuesday, councillors pushed the discussion, which has been ongoing for about a year, to that council meeting for final debate and decision.
The municipality says the decision was made after what it calls intensive public consultation with stakeholders and residents and suggests the switch would run approximately $19 million. Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton says council feels enough has been done to bring this to the decision point.
“The City of Grande Prairie Council and administration have undertaken a thoughtful, thorough, and well-paced review of policing services in our community,” she says. “Based on the results of the public consultation, the feedback from stakeholder meetings, and the information included in the detailed transition plan, City Council is comfortable bringing this discussion forward to a City Council meeting.”
The city says the annual operating budget of the municipal police service is projected to be similar to or less than that of the projected RCMP contract budget.
In addition to projected financial similarities, the belief is the new force will, among other things, create stronger public safety infrastructure and development. This includes, according to the municipality, an Integrated Public Safety Communications Centre, a real-time 24 hour operations centre, and specialized policing in the form of a local emergency response team.
While the decision to proceed with the proposal may impact things long term, in the short term, there are still several steps the city must go through before any policing changes take place. Included in the process will be approval of several ministers, to both form and finance the proposed force, as well as notifying the federal government of the intentions of the municipality, per the Municipal Police Service Agreement.