Over history, Canadian policing has enjoyed a great deal of respect and in some cases, admiration. Ordinary folks intuitively understood the need for laws to govern the ‘masses’, otherwise suffer with anarchy. We recognize that as new societal issues arise, each requires monitoring and adjustment so the behaviour can be legislated and policed effectively. Police are now and have always been expected to be adaptable and fair.
Society now has greater expectations of transparency and disclosure. No longer is it acceptable to have any government hide what they are doing with finances, overall governance, or how they treat their citizens. In a democracy, people are entitled to have a say in how their lives are managed.
It’s no different in St. Albert. We have been ably policed by the RCMP for many years. They had little obligation to explain their actions to anyone, and enjoyed solid community support. Canada-wide policing systems operated in that fashion for a long time.
As this transition occurred, society began to express greater expectation of how they would be governed and policed. Many legislatures across Canada provided those jurisdictions with civilian oversight capacity and many cities in Canada adopted a ‘community based’ and ‘intelligence lead’ approach to policing and policing governance. Along with FOIP legislation, it has become clear that citizens want and expect to know and have a say in what their cities and police services are doing.
For at least five years, Mayor Crouse has been asked to consider a police oversight system. Requests have been made to track the work completed by the St. Albert RCMP, and to establish metrics that would be useful to either support calls for additional officers, or re-align their duties to be more efficient given financial constraints. We now know that reports with sufficient detail are or can be produced for the Mayor, but are not shared with all City Council members or the public at large.
At some point, a ‘police advisory committee’ was struck in St. Albert. Such a committee is purely advisory in function, and exists at the discretion of the detachment Officer in Charge (OIC). Indeed, the last advisory committee was terminated by then Insp. MURRAY as ‘non-functional’. Currently, there is no true civilian oversight of police in St. Albert.
Our group, ‘St. Albert Citizens for a Policing Committee’ believe it is time for change. We believe it is no longer appropriate for a single point of contact between the City of St. Albert (the Mayor) and our police service. We believe there is insufficient separation between the authority of policing, and the influences and preferences of our civic politics. It is no longer acceptable that all instructions to our police service originate from and are vetted or controlled by the Mayor. Requests to the Mayor for disclosure of the 2016-2017 police objectives were met with deflection.
We understand that the St. Albert RCMP are obligated to follow the instructions of the Mayor. They are under contract to St. Albert, and the existing Municipal Police Agreement defines exactly that reporting relationship. We only speak of our RCMP detachment because there is no manner in which to address the concerns with Mayor Crouse’s control of the RCMP without identifying those components of that reporting and working relationship. Our group is extremely loyal to law enforcement, have complete respect for the work the RCMP must do, and wish only for a safe and friendly RCMP/community working environment in St. Albert.
However, it is difficult to appreciate exactly how the police function in St. Albert when there are few indicators of accomplishment by the detachment. The Mayor has either not asked for a full reporting, or alternatively, he does not feel compelled to share it with the public. Recent media reports were significantly lacking in detail, but no steps have been taken by the Mayor or the City to ensure that proper public recognition is given for ALL the police work accomplished in the last year.
There are many shortfalls with the existing City management of our RCMP. The City has failed to ensure that (legislated) proper and timely public surveys have been conducted to establish policing satisfaction in their community. There is no manner in which to monitor complaints against any local police officers. Although the citizens of St. Albert pay about 13 million dollars for RCMP policing each year, they apparently don’t need to know if those costs are efficiently managed.
In order for objectives to be realized, they must be named, measurable and achievable. Public confidence that policing services are effective and efficient is only possible if goals and outcomes are shared through full disclosure.
Our group has decided to take a leadership role in this matter, supported by our experience, knowledge and demonstrated commitment to public safety. We live here, our children and grandchildren live here and they along with all residents in St. Albert deserve nothing less than an open and transparent relationship with the men and women we count on to protect us everyday.
We believe the citizens of St. Albert are not getting full value for their policing dollar because of the exclusive and tightly controlled link between the Mayor and the OIC. We believe it is time for change.
Please visit policingstalbert.ca to learn more about this issue. We ask that you review the material, participate in the survey, and add any specific comments that you feel should be passed on to City Council. Or, write a letter to the Gazette, or write to the Mayor directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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