INNISFAIL – The Innisfail Policing & Safe Community Committee is endorsing the RCMP as the town’s preferred law enforcement service instead of the proposed Alberta police force now being considered by the provincial government.
That declaration of support was passed on to town council at its Feb. 22 Agenda & Priorities meeting by councillors Jason Heistad and Cindy Messaros, who are council’s current representatives to the policing committee.
Heistad told council that Messaros, CAO Todd Becker and himself attended the policing committee on Feb. 17.
While the position of the policing committee was not officially endorsed by a motion, Heistad and Messaros were asked to bring back the committee’s consensus position to town council that it supported the RCMP, as well relaying its ongoing concern about the lack of information advanced on the potential transition to a provincial police force.
“The community citizens that represent the policing committee are giving myself and councillor Messaros the ability to come forward and say they support our provincial RCMP. They are in full support of the local Innisfail RCMP and the work they do,” said Heistad, noting the federal government financially supports the province with $128 million to have RCMP community policing in Alberta.
Mayor Jean Barclay, who has publicly declared her support for the RCMP, said the committee’s position on the province-wide debate on the issue will have a meaningful impact in the community.
“This is obviously a huge topic. I hope what people do, including community members, is take the time to understand both sides of this and what potentially having an Alberta provincial police service would mean financially,” said Barclay. “As I said before there are many unanswered questions, and that Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) report that came out.”
Earlier this month after attending a National Police Federation (NPF) presentation in Olds on Feb. 2, Barclay said data from surveys the NPF had collected on whether Albertans support a police transition to a provincial force was “eye opening.”
The mayor noted data for rural Central Alberta communities showed that 81 per cent of survey respondents support the RCMP. She said the main concerns are transition and recruitment costs.
“There are some councillors that have not had an opportunity as of yet to hear the presentation from the Government of Alberta, and I know they are going to do that in March,” said Barclay. “I think when everyone has heard that presentation, we can then have a dialogue around this and see where everyone sits on it and go from there.”
Barclay also noted there will be an Alberta Municipalities spring caucus in early March in Edmonton, and the provincial police issue will likely be discussed as it continues to be an important issue with most municipalities.