Stettler county council met the new local RCMP detachment commander at their regular meeting Sept. 13, and it turns out it was a familiar face.
S/Sgt. Cam Russell appeared before council along with fellow detachment member Cpl. Ryan Scott. Most councillors recognized Russell from his time with both the Stettler and Bashaw detachments about five years ago.
“Many of you I haven’t seen in five or six years, so bear with me,” said Russell at the meeting.
“It’s a pleasure to be back. Definitely don’t like the circumstances.” Russell was referring to the sudden and unexpected passing of Stettler RCMP commander S/Sgt. Bruce Holliday last winter, whom Russell noted was his troop-mate when entering the RCMP.
Reeve Larry Clarke made him feel at home right away.
“We welcome you to the community,” said Clarke.
Russell stated he’s been commander of the Provost detachment since leaving Stettler and when the opportunity to return to Stettler came up, he jumped at it.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” said Russell, adding his family still had strong ties to the Stettler area.
However, he noted he liked Provost and enjoyed his time there, especially as Provost and Stettler have many common elements such as farming and oil patch.
The new commander stated he plans to stay in Stettler for at least four to five years and hopes to provide the stability which the local RCMP detachment has lacked over the past few years.
Coun. James Nibourg asked if Russell had worked at the Bashaw detachment, to which Russell responded yes, he had been sent to Bashaw to help out with a vacant position but returned to Stettler afterwards.
The new commander stated his first day in charge in Stettler was Sept. 5, observing most of the admin staff at the office are familiar but all of the RCMP members are different. He noted everybody is spending time getting to know each other.
Russell pointed out he likes to work with people to find common solutions to issues. The reeve noted the County of Stettler council likes to have input on policing issues and invited the new commander to participate in meetings as much as he’d like.
Russell responded he also likes that approach, and named the school resource officer (SRO) program as one that he will regularly participate in.
During discussion Coun. Ernie Gendre stated he agreed with the provincial government’s recent announcement it’s stiffening its approach to repeat offenders. Russell responded, “I don’t disagree.”
“That’s way beyond my influence. That’s the justice system.” Russell noted police collect evidence and lay charges, but what happens after that is up to the court system.
Coun. Nibourg asked if there was anything Russell would like council to mention at an upcoming Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) meeting. Russell responded that, when fully staffed, he feels the Stettler detachment is in pretty good shape.
However, he did mention that the Stettler RCMP’s boat seems to spend more time in the repair bay than on the water.
During discussions councillors asked about traffic enforcement, to which Russell answered the Stettler traffic service still exists but is more regional now so it’s not always close at hand. He added that the Stettler traffic service has been running short-staffed for years.
Coun. Dave Grover stated he’d like to see nightly checks done in the smaller villages, and agreed that repeat offenders being released all the time gets frustrating for him.
Grover suggested more pressure from everyone, council and RCMP, may cause higher levels of government to make changes.
One point Russell made was to stress the importance of tips and information from the community. He said local residents know their community better than the police do in some situations, so the RCMP wants to hear from you if you see a person or thing that seems out of place.
Councillors also discussed RCMP staffing levels with Russell, who noted police force across Alberta and Canada are short of staff.
“Shockingly enough, not a lot of people want to be a police officer right now, as a new job,” said Russell. He noted there’s a stigma on police across North America that will take time to address.
Reeve Clarke closed out Russell’s first appearance at council by inviting him to return at any time.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 21, 2023