RCMP Central Alberta District proposed a new pilot program to Sylvan Lake Town Council which would see a 24-hour RCMP presence by local officers.
The pilot program would have Sylvan Lake RCMP officerS switch to a 12-hour shift schedule, and stop the need for continuous on-call officers.
Chief Superintendent for the district Shahin Mehdizadeh, says this system would allow officers to have a better work-life balance while also giving better coverage to the area.
“We are looking at ways to maximize our efficiency,” Mehdizadeh told council. “It has been scientifically proven that it is safer for an officer to work longer hours, and be awake and prepared, then waking them up while on call.”
The pilot program would be in partnership with Rimbey RCMP, who would also change to a 12-hour shift model that would match Sylvan Lake’s detachment.
With the two detachments working on similar shifts, it will allow for further cooperation between the two.
Mehdizadeh says in particular, it will allow both detachments to be more readily available for the possibility of a back up call being requested.
“Already Rimbey and Sylvan Lake work together, and the back up calls are made now. With a 12-hour shift it will give a better response time for those calls,” he said, adding the response time will also be better for local calls.
“It will be a tit-for-tat buddy system.”
He says should the pilot program be approved, it will run for three months and only once the department is fully staffed and ready.
“Before we do make a shift change we have to give our members at least 28 days of notice. So, this isn’t something that would just happen tomorrow,” he said.
A similar pilot project was instated with the Wetaskiwin and Camrose RCMP detachments, with positive results.
While Mehdizadeh says the pilot project will bring more visibility to officers, give better response time and have officers on duty 24-hours each day, which is currently not the case, Town Council says they have concerns.
In particular, Council says they are concerned with how the pilot project could effect the Town’s agreement with the RCMP as well as their budget.
“We’re a little apprehensive,” said Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre.
Council was also concerned with the shift change being used to provide back up to the neighbouring community of Rimbey.
The concern is that providing back up to Rimbey, which is half an hour north of Sylvan Lake, will take away from Sylvan Lake.
Mehdizadeh says officers will not be moved to another detachments, nor are more bodies being asked for.
“We are concerned for our entire area, but we don’t want to short the people of Sylvan Lake… Back up requests already happen now, the pilot project will just allow the officers to be more prepared and efficient should the call arise,” he said.
No decision was made at the Oct. 15 council meeting about the potential pilot project. Mehdizadeh hopes to speak with the Town of Rimbey as well as the officers before coming back to council to further discuss the proposal.