Alberta plans to create new police agency, says it’s not an RCMP substitute

Alberta is introducing new legislation that it says would create a new, independent police force.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Ellis says this isn’t a replacement for the RCMP.

“I think it is very important to state immediately that in the clearest terms possible — that this legislation does not create a provincial police service in [replacement] of the RCMP,” he said. “Our aim here is to bring the police-like functions that the Alberta Sheriffs have taken on over time under the same kind of legislative framework and civilian oversight as Alberta’s police services.”

Alberta has suggested the possibility of a provincial police force numerous times over the years, most recently in the fall of 2022. But, nearly a year later, it appeared to dump the idea.

The proposal faced opposition from municipalities particularly over concerns on cost, implementation, and staffing. The union representing members of the RCMP was also staunchly opposed.

The new legislation would change current law to create a new organization the government says would work alongside police services across the province like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), municipal police forces, and First Nations police services.

Officers in the new force would perform police-like functions that are currently carried out by the Alberta Sheriffs.

The province said Wednesday these changes would improve the government’s ability to respond to requests by communities for more law enforcement.

The new police agency would be independent from the government.

These new additions would build on work previously done to expand the role of Alberta Sheriffs to increase public safety, the province says.

Expanded duties of sheriffs in the province include fugitive apprehension, surveillance and Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response, which — beginning in July 2021 — gave the Sheriff Highway Patrol the authority to investigate impaired driving and other criminal offences.

Sheriffs were also deployed by the province to inner city Calgary and downtown Edmonton last year to help curb social disorder and crime.

It adds the new agency would follow best practices, including being subject to a civilian oversight board to increase public confidence and accountability.

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