The Grande Prairie Police Services unveiled their new uniforms and vehicles outside of Centre 2000 in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. The GPPS is working to become the police of jurisdiction in the city and phase out the RCMP municipal policing. (Photo by Jesse Boily)Jesse Boily

The Grande Prairie Police Service (GPPS) unveiled its uniforms and first vehicles on April 17.

GPPS officers will be on the streets as early as this summer, said GPPS chief Dwayne Lakusta. 

“You’ll start seeing our officers riding with RCMP officers in the short order, probably in the summer months,” he said.

“Public safety is the number one top priority, so as we go through this transition we want the public to be aware that we’re still responsive, we’re still available, the RCMP are available, and we’ll supplement our resources when appropriate.”

Lakusta said the GPPS is creating a “more responsive model for the City of Grande Prairie” that will see more officers on foot, in schools and dedicated to community engagement.

“When it comes to our deployment, you’ll see more officers in neighbourhoods as we divide the city up into quadrants, so people in the neighbourhoods can get to know their community officers. 

“That way, the officers can get to know who the people are in their community, maybe where some of the problems exist, and where they need to pay more attention.” 

He said the GPPS approach is “intelligence-led policing”, not random patrols. 

Lakusta said now that mobile outreach and enforcement services are under the command of the GPPS, it will allow for better collaboration and ensure the proper resources are being sent to calls where they are needed. 

“We’re going to be evaluating those calls for service real-time, assessing what resources need to go, whether it’s going to be mental health workers, addictions counsellors, social services or actual police services that need to respond to that call for service,” said Lakusta.

He said work is being done so that police are not automatically dispatched to all 911 calls before assessments determine the appropriate response. 

The two vehicles displayed on Wednesday will be used for training purposes. The police service is expecting to have about 10 vehicles by September.

Lakusta said the new vehicles and uniforms are similar to those of other municipal police services in Alberta, with black uniforms and vehicles, but they still remain distinct to stand out in the community. 

Lakusta said the number of vehicles will change over time depending on the deployment of officers. 

“We want to make sure that we’re running a very efficient police service, so we’ll be conducting an assessment of how many vehicles we need for our purposes,” said Lakusta.

The police chief was not too concerned with vehicle supply chain issues, noting that issues have “always existed” and believing that they are a matter of planning. 

He noted that the search for its police equipment is almost complete after testing a variety of equipment. 

“For the most part, we have all our supplies identified by now, and the officers that we currently have working on the recruiting and training are fully equipped with the equipment that we need, so I’m confident that won’t become an issue for us.”

The police service is working towards becoming the police of jurisdiction in the city as it follows its five-year plan to replace the RCMP. Grande Prairie is the first municipality in Alberta to create its own police service since 1956. 

While the first officers are expected to be deployed later this year, GPPS plans to assume jurisdiction over policing in 2026. 

Lakusta said the first experienced officer class will begin on May 27, and the first recruit class will begin on Sept. 9. 

“We’ve had an overwhelming response from the community when it comes to our recruiting efforts,” said Lakusta. 

“We’ve had a very diverse group of people that have applied, various backgrounds, ethnicities, gender, so I’m very optimistic on our path moving forward that we’re going to prove this transition successful.”

Grande Prairie Police Commission Chair Dan Wong said about 200 applications were received; recruiting for the city’s police officers is ongoing. 

“It’s great to see that there’s a huge demand,” said Wong.

Mayor Jackie Clayton said that after the city performed a municipal police review, it found opportunities to make the community safer by moving forward with a municipal police service. 

“Modern policing is really a police service that is specifically for the needs of Grande Prairie, and that’s a modern solution to modern issues,” she said. 

“The RCMP did a good job in our community, but their mandate was not based on local needs. 

“The mandate came from Ottawa and having that local input through a local police commission is really the different piece.”

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 25, 2024 at 09:14

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

Comments are Welcome - Use the 'Join the Discussion' above any replies, or 'TheRegional / Chat' below replies. Both links take you to the same place. You will be asked to become a registered user if you are not one already - Posts are moderated