Policing committee to begin work in 2018

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A bylaw to establish a policing committee received third and final reading without much ado Monday.

The policing committee, which will liaise with the RCMP, help set policing priorities in the community and provide civilian oversight, will begin its role in January 2018.

It has taken over a year to establish a policing committee and the bylaw itself has undergone a number of amendments since first reading was given on May 3.

Coun. Bob Russell, who campaigned on the promise to re-establish a form of civilian oversight of policing operations, simply thanked residents and council for supporting the bylaw.

Mayor Nolan Crouse continued to vote against establishing the committee, stating that it served to delegate responsibilities away from council. Liaising with the detachment commander was historically the responsibility of the mayor. The new bylaw shifts that responsibility to the committee chair.

Crouse also questioned whether it was a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Council also approved $18,300 from the Stabilization Reserve to be used to hire a part-time position within the Policing Services department. The 0.56 FTE position will provide administrative support to the committee and would be responsible for setting meeting agendas, writing reports and taking meeting minutes.

This position could be filled as soon as July 2017, said Aaron Giesbrecht, manager of policing services.

Another $10,000 from the Stabilization Reserve was transferred to the 2017 Operating Budget to support the start-up costs associated with recruiting and training committee members.

An ongoing amount of approximately $70,000 will also be built into the budget to support ongoing operational and staffing costs.

Coun. Cam MacKay argued that oversight and accountability was invaluable and that the cost was small when compared to other projects under council consideration.

Coun. Tim Osborne said the committee is an opportunity to partner with residents.

“I think it’s been a struggle the way that we’ve done it. I’m not sure that council has always provided the best level of input into policing as possible. I think having a committee that can have dedicated time and focus on this is a good thing,” he said.

Third reading passed with a margin of 6-1, with Crouse voting against.

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Michelle Ferguson