Justification wanted for any change in policing complement

A town policy which specified the number of RCMP officers required by the community based on population

A town policy which specified the number of RCMP officers required by the community based on population has been changed to give councillors more involvement in the decision.

The previous policy stated the “The Royal Canadian Mounted Police municipal complement level shall be one member per 800 residents.”

At their meeting Oct. 8, councillors were concerned with the use of the word ‘shall’. They wanted justification for increases in police staffing rather than an automatic increase based on a rise in population.

The new policy, passed unanimously at Monday night’s meeting, now states once the 1-800 level is reached “a review of services and request for additional staffing may be submitted to town council for consideration”.

The policy also added a clause stating a municipal enforcement officer complement of one member per 3,500 residents would trigger a similar review and request for additional staffing.

That ratio was raised from 1-3,200 following the last meeting, after the report by Ron Lebsack, director of leisure and protective services, indicated that would require an additional half time position.

Answering a question from Councillor Rick Grimson Monday night, he said the change to 3,500 meant the request for the additional half time staff person was not required.

Earlier in the year councillors indicated they wanted the municipal enforcement officers included in a policy that would address all policing staff.

That was done in the proposal that was presented by Lebsack, at the Oct. 8 meeting.

“The town’s current policy refers only to RCMP staffing complement and does not take into consideration the municipal enforcement officers or the enhanced policing when determining policing ratios,” his report stated.

Lebsack added the RCMP would oppose any change in the current policy.

They supported that position based on statistics and figures provided to councillors as well as the clear definition of roles between the RCMP and municipal enforcement officers. “Typically the only crossover is traffic tickets,” said Lebsack at the previous meeting. “They felt if the ratio is changed it would be going backwards for the community.”

The report from Lebsack also indicated that enforcement officers spent about 1,100 hours or 138 full shifts per year completing paperwork and not in the community and on the streets. “Additional town functions such as assistance and enforcement during snow clearing, street sweeping, and development permit issues further reduces the amount of street time the enforcement officers spend in the community.”

His initial recommendation for an additional 0.5 FTE enforcement officer “would provide increased coverage, a greater shift overlap, and reduce the amount of administration time per officer, which would increase the service level of the municipal enforcement within the community”.

The report proposed a ratio of one full-time municipal enforcement officer per 3,200 residents. While the per resident number was lower than other communities, Lebsack said this was justified by the seasonal influx of visitors.

“I still think municipal enforcement officers were hired to support the RCMP so therefore if we allow the RCMP less workload why do we need more officers,” questioned Councillor Laverne Asselstine at the Oct. 8 meeting. “The other reason I’m not particularly keen on ratios is it negates the substantive role of management to justify resources. If the RCMP police chief decides he has issues he should come before council, I don’t think it should be an arbitrary figure.”

Councillor Sean McIntyre felt the intent was to have a target “but we aren’t necessarily binding ourselves.” He added, “in fairness, the RCMP came to us in the spring asking for an additional member that we did not approve.”

Agreeing with him at the earlier meeting was Councillor Dale Plante. “They need to come back to council and justify the need. I’d like to see a recommended number as opposed to a rigid number.”

“In my opinion we get more out of the RCMP rather than bylaw,” said Councillor Rick Grimson. They’re able to deal with more issues and enforcement than the municipal enforcement officers, he said while questioning the town’s cost for the two types of officers.

Lebsack indicated the cost to the town for an RCMP officer is $100,000 a year while for a municipal enforcement officer it’s about $80-82,000.