Two members of St. Albert’s newly established policing committee say they want the committee to fill a communication void within the city.
The committee aims to be a liaison between the city, RCMP and residents. On Dec. 4, the city formally named six members of the public to sit on the committee.
Al Bohachyk, Craig Cameron, Dean Kurpjuweit, LuAnne Sirdiak, Dion Tarkowski and Kristopher Wells have been appointed to the nine-seat committee. The remaining three seats belong to Coun. Sheena Hughes and two advisory members: St. Albert RCMP Inspector Pamela Robinson and Dale Bendfeld, general manager of community and protective services.
Wells, an associate professor and faculty director for the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said he wants to see the committee ensure communication with all members of city council and as much as possible with residents.
“I was really excited to see this opportunity come to St. Albert,” he said.
“For me, it just comes down to increasing community involvement, ensuring there’s appropriate accountability back to citizens and that there’s transparency in operations.”
The committee will hold its first meetings in the new year. One of the first priorities Wells sees is building a relationship with the RCMP and city and setting mutual goals.
“I think that it’s very important that we’re clear on what the purpose and role of the committee is, and get to work on behalf of the citizens of our city,” he said.
“I always believe there are ways to improve our practises and I think one of the most important for this new committee is simply going to be communication.”
Resident Al Bohachyk, who has been a staunch advocate for the establishment of the committee and who has 30 years of policing experience himself, said it is timely to have the committee established at the same time as city council has changed over.
In the past, the mayor has been the direct liaison between the city and the RCMP regarding policing priorities, he said.
“That only changes when a policing committee is established,” he said.
“What I’m hoping to see different in the future than what we’ve had in the past is now there will be a real opportunity … for the public to have a say about how policing is prioritized in St. Albert,” Bohachyk said.
Although he plans to wait and see what the priorities of other members will be, Bohachyk said he sees an opportunity to look at improving how RCMP report their activities and also potentially take a look at staffing levels to see if the RCMP need more or less resources than they currently have.
“It’s a huge endeavour and there is lots of material to consider,” he said.
Wells said he hopes other communities will take notice of the committee’s work.
“I hope to set a shining example so other municipalities will look at the model and consider implementing one themselves,” he said.
“There’s just very few of these … that work with the RCMP, and they’re sort of a unique creature of legislation.”
Meetings are open to the public and agendas will be posted online at least five days prior to each meeting.
The committee has been in the works for more than a year. City council passed a bylaw to establish the committee in June.