A new policing committee could be on the horizon for St. Albert.
Coun. Bob Russell promised during his byelection campaign last June to pursue the creation of a policing committee to give the community a voice.
On Monday a motion for city administration to work with the RCMP and the solicitor general on the establishment of such a committee and to bring back a bylaw or terms of reference for council’s consideration was unanimously passed.
Russell said a policing committee can serve an active function, and his suggestion was not meant to be a criticism of the St. Albert RCMP.
“There are many areas where we can be of some help,” he said, noting he’s served on similar committees in the past.
Russell said that the committee would have a voice to represent citizens, but would leave the day-to-day policing to the RCMP. He disputed a staff report that suggested an additional city employee would be needed to co-ordinate such a committee.
“Mr. Mayor, I don’t think so. Get good people on this committee, we can do this ourselves,” Russell said.
Previously the RCMP had a community advisory committee that was disbanded by former detachment commander Kevin Murray. Murray said in a 2015 letter to council that the meetings had become more about him reporting policing activities to the committee than getting community input.
Coun. Tim Osborne said he’d been on the previous advisory committee.
“I think it had run its course,” he said. But he said he was willing to support this motion, noting he believes it is important to have police and citizens communicating.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said a couple of years ago he visited Caledon, Ont. to check out its crime prevention strategies.
That included a committee where the chair was paid, committee members received funding to go conferences to get information, and there were several active subcommittees.
“It’s an entire community engagement,” he said. He thinks if St. Albert’s proposed policing committee was designed to have broad impact and received some funding, “I believe they can do something.”
“This committee has some great potential as long as they’re not sitting around telling the RCMP what to do,” he said.
Community resident Allan Bohachyk presented to council in favour of a policing committee. With 30 years of municipal policing under his belt, he supported the idea of putting in place mechanisms where citizens could have their concerns addressed.
“You have the authority to make this happen, you have much public support if you do,” he told council.
Insp. Ken Foster, the current St. Albert RCMP detachment commander, said he would not resist such a move.
“We always appreciate and have no concerns and we’re not resistant at all to having and being involved in conversations, engagement with the general public,” Foster said.
The RCMP currently use other mechanisms to engage the public, like the Strategic and Mobilization committee, meetings with council and communication with various agencies, he said.
“We just want something that works,” he said. “Where the problem comes in, and I think the mayor alluded to it last night if it just winds up with people coming to have tea and coffee to find out what’s happening in the policing world, that’s not value-added.”
What shape the committee could take is yet to be determined, as council has asked for a terms of reference to come back.
“The only thing that’s really important to me is it really becomes meaningful holistically for the city, and not get mired in … somebody concerned about the car that lives on their block that goes too fast,” Foster said. Whatever structure council settles on should be focused on high level issues, he said.