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Shandro: Debate on cost of provincial police force is a 'red herring'

Justice minister doubles down on questions about transition costs, says every detachment would have a minimum of 10 officers.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro
Justice Minister and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro introduces Bill 24 in this file photo from June 18, 2020. PHOTO: Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta

The report that outlined a proposal for a provincial police force in Alberta is nearing its one-year anniversary and many Albertans still have questions about what it would mean for policing in their own communities. 

A plan presented Tuesday by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro indicated the Alberta Police Service (APS) model would see a minimum of 10 officers employed at every existing detachment in the province. 

The minister said that municipalities would see no increased cost for service under the APS despite claims from the National Police Federation (NPF) that local governments would pay more cash for fewer officers. 

"I think any criticism or any of this debate about cost is a red herring," he said. 

Shandro said the government will cover any costs associated with the transition, calling them "marginal in the context of a large provincial budget." 

According to the PricewaterhouseCooper Transition Study Final Report, the estimated transition costs are projected to be approximately $366 million over six years. 

The APS model summary proposes establishing four detachment types. 

Approximately 65 to 85 "community detachments" would be located in smaller urban and rural communities across the province and would be subject to a minimum detachment size of 10 officers. In larger locations, this ratio could see as many as 80 officers and 33 civilians. 

According to the province, this move would increase staffing levels in 42 of Alberta's 117 detachments. 

"Service detachments" would provide the same standard services as community detachments but will also have access to specialized resources like mental health and addictions response, forensics, canine units, tactical teams and air support to provide to surrounding communities. The Province said there will be 20 to 30 such detachments in medium-sized urban and rural communities, requiring anywhere from 48 to 192 police officers and 20 to 80 civilians. 

Three "regional (urban) hubs" would be established in the province's largest centres and would be responsible for providing strategic services for their region as well as all necessary community policing and specialist services. Estimates from the Province indicated that 200 police officers and 83 civilians would be required to fulfill the needs of such units. 

APS would also see the creation of detachments specifically designed for providing services in indigenous communities, according to the Province.

The Province said the APS model would see more officers with boots on the ground by enabling them to step out of administrative positions that would instead be held by civilians. 

Additional money from the Provincial Police Service Agreement has allowed the RCMP to add 450 positions since 2020 — 245 officers and 207 civilians — according to the report. Using the same funding model, the Province said APS would be able to add 553 positions — 383 police officers and 170 additional civilian workers — 95 of which would be mental health and social workers. 

Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis), which represents 275 of the province's 334 municipalities, responded to the plan following the conclusion of the press conference, acknowledging that it was a part of a high-level briefing that took place earlier Tuesday. 

Some of the outstanding concerns raised by the organization include police governance and oversight, police service levels and costs, as well as what it said was insufficient consultation between the Province, local governments and key stakeholders (including AbMunis).