The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis and Minister of Justice Tyler Shandro held a media roundtable discussion last month on rural crime and what the province is doing about it.

Ellis discussed increased policing costs to municipalities.

“I have heard from many Albertans, especially in rural areas, that they are concerned about policing costs. A recent RCMP announcement that rural municipalities will be on the hook for basically a $60-million bill. The provincial government municipalities had no input when the federal government and RCMP union negotiated a new collective agreement to increase Alberta’s policing costs over the life of the contract by approximately 20%.”

Ellis also talked about provincial grants available to municipalities to explore alternative policing options. About a dozen have decided to have an independent study done and Ellis said they are trying to work with these communities. While he didn’t have an exact number, he mentioned there were several other applications that still needed to be processed.

The number of sheriffs in the province has increased to augment the current policing services. Sheriffs have two primary functions, the first is court and prisoner security and the other is prisoner transport. In addition to highway patrol, sheriffs are also augmenting police services and Ellis said they were fully trained to take those calls, if only to be first on scene until a police officer was available.

Unlike police officers, sheriffs are not required to wear bodycams.

“We are in the process through the Alberta Association of the Chiefs of Police,” said Ellis. “I gave them a four-month time limit to get back to me with recommendations on how to get that going.”

Shandro discussed how the high vacancy rate among prosecutors in Alberta has been reduced. Currently, there are 55 more prosecutors working in the province than in 2019. Shandro stated Alberta has lost prosecutors to B.C. and the federal government.

He also mentioned that the province intended to add an additional 140 court clerk positions in Alberta who can deal with items before they enter a courtroom and reduce the volume currently sitting in the core system.

“Generally, with the volume of work we see coming out of COVID, making sure that we have the staffing levels that we need to deal with that volume,” said Shandro. “A lot of this stuff doesn’t have to require coming into a courtroom anymore, requiring lawyers and accused to have to travel long distances to get to courthouses.”

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 18, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta

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