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RCMP vacancies 'huge concern,' says Mountain View County councillor

Coun. Peggy Johnson says eight vacancies out of 23 positions among three RCMP detachments a significant number
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MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - County council has carried a motion asking detachment commanders to provide more details on staffing vacancy levels at the three area RCMP detachments.

Council received and reviewed quarterly reports from the Olds, Sundre and Didsbury RCMP detachments at the recent regularly scheduled council meeting.

In each of the reports, the detachment commanders noted the number of hard and soft vacancies at their respective detachments.

Soft vacancies are positions that are filled but vacant due to maternity/paternity leave, medical leave etc., and hard vacancies are positions that do not have an employee attached and need to be filled.

The three detachments in the area have a total established strength of 23 officers.

According to the quarterly reports, at the Didsbury detachment there are four officers on soft vacancies and no hard vacancies out of an established strength of 10 positions.

In Olds, there is one soft vacancy and no hard vacancies out of an established strength of five, while at there are two soft vacancies and one hard vacancy out of an established strength of eight positions at the Sundre detachment.

During the Nov. 29 council meeting, Coun. Peggy Johnson said she is concerned with the number of vacancies – eight out of 23 total strength – at the three detachments.

“I know when the whole discussion about provincial policing versus the current model and all that started, that there was lots of focus on the number of vacancies,” said Johnson, the Division 6 councillor.

“I think it is interesting when you look at these reports, that we are looking at a total of eight vacancies out of 23 positions, which is a significant number. 

“My concern is less the detailed statistics (in the quarterly reports) and quite a bit of concern about the eight vacancies. That is a huge number out of 23 positions and I think it is worth noting.”

Coun. Greg Harris, a former police officer, explained that “soft vacancies means that there is a body in a position at the detachment but they are just not available to work; hard vacancy means there is a position there but there is no body to fill it.”

Coun. Johnson replied, “Even a soft vacancy means there is somebody that is not coming to work today. So if there are eight people out of 23 who are not coming to work today, I think that is a huge concern. 

“I don’t know how we change the model in order to have the right number of folks who actually turn up to do the job today, but the fact that this number is so big is a great concern.”

Reeve Angela Aalbers said the county could request information from the detachment commanders on “how they deal with their soft vacancies and how they think that impacts the strength of the RCMP detachment. Maybe we could ask them to address that in their next quarterly reports.”

The quarterly reports, covering July to September and presented to council on Nov. 29, also included recent crime statistics.

Didsbury RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Stephen Browne said during the reporting period, officers laid charges of assault with a weapon, forcible confinement/utter threats, and assault in seven domestic violence calls.

Officers also laid charges in more than a dozen addition criminal cases, with those charges including assault with weapon, break and enter, assault causing bodily harm, and impaired driving. 

Officers responded to 20 mental health calls in the county portion of the detachment area.

There were 21 persons crimes reported in the county portion of the Olds RCMP detachment area during the reporting period, an increase of 11 per cent from the same period in 2022. 

There were 43 property crimes reported, down 51 per cent from the same period in 2022.

There were 47 persons crimes report in the county portion of the Sundre detachment, an increase of 38 per cent over the same period in 2022.

There were 103 property crimes reported, a decrease of 40 per cent over the same period in 2022.

Council carried a motion accepting the quarterly reports as information and requesting follow up information from the detachment commanders on soft vacancies and coverage in the next quarterly reports.

Dan Singleton

About the Author: Dan Singleton

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