Alberta pledges creation of independent police agency

Alberta is set to create a new police agency that would assist existing law enforcement services to meet the province's 'evolving police needs.' The UCP clarified it will keep the RCMP as its provincial police service, for now.

Alberta pledges creation of independent police agency
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley and Facebook/ Diabetes Canada
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The UCP is keeping the RCMP as its provincial police service, according to a public safety announcement made Wednesday.

If passed, the Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act, 2024 would update current policing legislation to create a new organization that would work alongside police services across the province. 

The new agency would follow best practices and be subject to a civilian oversight board to bolster public confidence and promote greater accountability.

Rebel News sought clarity on how the province would keep the oversight commission independent of political influence. “There will be no elected officials on the commission,” replied Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis, a tenured police officer with the Calgary Police Service.

The minister noted the agency is needed to assist the province’s evolving police needs, which include building on previous work done to expand the role of the Alberta Sheriffs.

In recent years, they've received an expanded mandate to include fugitive apprehension, surveillance and Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response to investigate impaired driving and other criminal offences, according to the province. 

The minister contends the agency will perform specialized law enforcement functions, freeing up time for other police services to spend on core operations and frontline duties. It would take on added police-like functions currently carried out by the Alberta Sheriffs, according to the province.

When asked for the anticipated timeline for expanding their role, Ellis said the first step is to table the proposed legislation. “Sheriffs play a vital role in working with police to support safer communities,” he said.

Soon after, they would create the commission, and account for its operational costs. Ellis provided no further details.

The suggested amendments underscore the province’s ongoing work to strengthen its current policing model, amid ongoing consultations on whether to replace the RCMP.

Meanwhile, the agency would support the RCMP, municipal police services and First Nations police services rather than replace them, clarified Ellis.

"These changes are part of a broader paradigm shift that reimagines police as an extension of the community rather than as an arm of the state,” he said.

“Having a new police agency perform these functions under the legal framework of policing legislation will ensure they’re carried out with the transparency, accountability and independence which Albertans should expect from law enforcement.”

“These changes will improve the government’s ability to respond to communities’ requests for additional law enforcement support through a new agency that can operate seamlessly alongside local police in the policing environment,” reads the government announcement.

The UCP tabled the bill Wednesday afternoon for its first reading.

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