Less than 48 hours after the decision to transition away from the RCMP in Grande Prairie was made, Mayor Jackie Clayton says work on the five year plan has already begun.
Having sent a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services requesting to change the policing model in the city and form a municipal force on Tuesday, Clayton says the formal steps will continue to fall into place, with tangible results expected to be seen by the end of the year.
Clayton says in addition to the bureaucratic steps needed to formally request the switch to a municipal police force from the RCMP, more big decisions will also be made over the course of 2023 and beyond.
“We will be looking to implement the police commission, following that, the commission will hire a police chief, and then in turn, they will follow through the rest of the transition plan and we will begin to see municipal police members recruited.”
Clayton says, while she understands there are concerns from residents when it comes to what policing will look like as the transition takes place, she says there will be no shortcomings when it comes to the number of officers on active duty. She says while the decision was not easy, and followed a lengthy, multi-year process, she and council believe it is the right course of action for the city.
“This will not be a quick process; it’s not like we are ending RCMP today. It’s a five year transition. You will slowly integrate a municipal police force, and slowly de-escalate the RCMP. The RCMP have been in the community for a very long time, and we are very thankful for the work that they’ve done to date, but council’s decision was that the RCMP in the current model doesn’t meet the community’s needs, and going forward we want to be policed in a different model.”
Clayton explains the $9.7 million over two years in funding from the province provided city council with the confidence the province was willing to be a partner in the transition.
“What it really does is guarantee that council has options, because council does not want to see a tax increase as a result of the transition. We have tools, from reserves to potentially the fair market value of existing assets that the city already owns, such as equipment.”
Clayton adds when the RCMP is removed from the service model equation, there are assets included which the city will receive 90 per cent of the fair market value for, which is funds which have not been included in the transition calculation.
According to the city’s Municipal Police Transition plan, by the end of 2023 the chief of police and two superintendents, including one civilian, will be hired.