The City of Grande Prairie is moving forward with the next steps of creating a municipal police force after council approved the Police Commission bylaw during its March 20th meeting. Executive Director of Emergency Services Chris Manuel says passing the bylaw is one of several legislative requirements the city needs to meet to move forward.
“Now council will be able to move forward with the recruitment, and eventual appointment of the police commission members,” Manuel says, “which will be critical because that is who will ultimately provide the governance and the oversight of the future municipal police service and one of their first actions will be the recruitment of a Chief of Police.”
Manuel says the bylaw does not go into the details about what the commission will do on a day-to-day basis, but, rather, is an overarching guideline and framework for the governing body which will be formed in compliance with the Albert Police act.
“It provides a range. For instance, it says the bylaw will allow between five and 12 commission members, depending on the quality of applicants you get you may want to lean towards the seven perhaps or five. If you get a ton of super qualified candidates and you are looking to bring them all on board you could go to the top end of that.”
Manuel explains one of the benefits the commission members will have is receiving an aerial view of policing in the city, instead of just going off of personal experience or feedback being heard in the community. Members of the newly formed commission will gain a better understanding of the pressures municipal services face after being presented with information not readily available to the public from Grande Prairie Police Service commanding officers. He adds this information will help the commission focus on priorities in the city.
“Typically priorities, when we look at them from a police and law enforcement perspective, aren’t focused so granular that it is one or two things. It is usually into themes, and you will have specific tactics to attack those one or two things, but you will look to address larger city policing concerns.”
The hope is the Grande Prairie force can identify a trend, like the increase in car thefts during the winter due to vehicles left running with the keys in them, then implement approaches designed or adapted for the Grande Prairie community and assess if the approach is successful or not. Manuel says it is fine if an approach fails, but the ability to identify it is not working quickly and then start looking at the next task is vital. He adds with the local service, it will make those choices which require policy and approval easier to move forward with.
Along with providing oversight, the commission’s responsibilities outlined in the proposed bylaw would include establishing policies for effective and efficient policing, appointing a Chief of Police and officers, and designating a Public Complaints Director. The commission would also be in charge of allocating funds and ensuring the police service has sufficient staffing. Commission members will serve a term of up to three years, and no more than two members of the commission can be members of city council or employees of the city.
According to the city, recruitment for members of the Grande Prairie Police Commission will start in the following weeks.