RCMP cleared to apply for more officers
Council approval required for police force to address staffing
Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am
St. Albert city council has accepted a request by the local RCMP detachment to apply for more officers.
Every year the RCMP requires a formal resolution be passed by council, allowing the local detachment to request more RCMP positions. Detachment commander Insp. Kevin Murray appeared before council on Monday to request five additional officers, which would bring the force’s total to 66 approved positions.
The detachment currently has 56 officers but 61 approved positions. Murray said he likes to have some extra approved positions available so he can work on filling them in anticipation of officer departures, since it takes time to approve staff positions on a federal level, obtain new officers and transfer existing ones to St. Albert.
Historically, the detachment has always played catch up to fill positions. By “over asking,” Murray said he can more easily fill vacancies from sick leave, maternity leave and transfers out, while waiting for new positions to get approved.
“Oftentimes we were at least 10 per cent behind the authorized figure. (The decision) allows me to continue to be looking for additional people in anticipation of vacancies or parental leave,” he said.
The request is to “strengthen the organization chart number.” The number of RCMP officers that would actually be working in St. Albert is determined in the budget.
The actual number of RCMP members the city hopes to obtain is 56 for 2014.
“This is straight politics on the RCMP level,” commented Mayor Nolan Crouse. “Ask for 50, get 40. Ask for 70, get 60. There are just not enough RCMP members across Canada.”
“This is a way to get more boots on the street. Currently with 61 ask, we have 56,” said Chris Jardine, the city’s general manager of community and protective services. “We need to be slightly ahead of the curve, not shooting a rocket into the sky.”
Under the Municipal Policing Agreement, the RCMP can legally fill RCMP members to the “authorized” number and if that occurs, the city would be legally responsible for the policing costs, stated information provided to council.
The likelihood of that happening is low, noted city administration.
If the RCMP sticks with the same timelines used in the past, it would end up waiting up to two years to get any requests filled, stated the information.
Coun. Cam MacKay was the lone vote against approving the RCMP’s request.
He referred to the long-term policing services plan presented to council in June that called for increasing police officer to resident ratios from 1:1,193 to 1:1,000.
“In spite of this we had very low crime rates or dropping crime rates. I just don’t see that the initial resources will be required next year or in two years,” MacKay said.
He suggested amending the RCMP’s request to ask for an additional two staff positions instead of five.
“I think this is a fair compromise given the cost,” he added.
The motion was defeated.
Coun. Sheena Hughes said she would like to see evidence of the increased police need when it comes budget time.
“When it comes to budgets, I need to have a stronger reason than a ‘gut feel.’”