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Why is Alberta considering alternatives to RCMP contract policing?

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The federal government is considering the future of contract policing. In 2021, the House of Commons released a report on the subject. It found that that the RCMP has difficulty providing both community policing and national policing services. The federal government has also acknowledged the rising cost of RCMP contract policing.  The Prime Minister recently wrote a letter to the minister responsible for the RCMP asking for a review of contract policing. A review would include consultation with provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous communities.

View Mandate Letter

Alberta is at the halfway point in its current contract for RCMP provincial policing and is part of growing national reconsideration about the future of  policing. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan have all announced plans to consider provincial policing. Recently, a British Columbian all-party committee recommended that B.C. replace the RCMP with a new provincial police service. At the municipal level, Surrey B.C. is transitioning from the RCMP to their own municipal police. Several municipalities in the Maritimes are also considering a change. Alberta cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as this conversation unfolds.

How and when will the provincial government decide whether or not to establish an Alberta provincial police service?

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No timeline for a final decision has been set.

Alberta's government firmly believes that establishing an Alberta provincial police service is not a question of if, but when.

Initiating the two year transition period is done by formally notifying the federal government in writing.

Why is the provincial government pursuing this idea when some municipalities have expressed their support for the RCMP?

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Exploring alternative provincial policing models is in no way a reflection of the men and women who serve in the RCMP. Albertans are justifiably proud and grateful for the RCMP and their proud history of serving our province. Alberta’s existing contract for providing province-wide policing lies with the federal government, not with the RCMP. This is an important distinction, as our concerns are with the federal contract, which, over the years, has prevented successive governments from significantly improving policing at a local level.

What are some of the challenges that can't be fixed within the current contract policing model?

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The contract only allows for a limited civilian oversight and governance structure.

The RCMP is governed by federal legislation. Alberta has limited influence over improvements.

Recruitment and detachment staffing remains a problem for Alberta, especially in rural areas.

Decisions about recruiting, staffing, and transfers are all done at a national level. The needs of any individual province are therefore not top priority.

There is no opportunity to tailor training to the Alberta context.

Alberta is different from other parts of Canada. Training for provincial police officers could be improved to reflect this difference.

The federal government uses a national forensic laboratory system.

This system prioritizes processing only the most serious criminal forensic evidence. Evidence for less-serious offences, like property crime, are rarely processed. With an Alberta-managed forensic laboratory system, we would be able to process more evidence, more quickly.

Alberta has little control over future costs.

The federal government recently signed a multi-year collective agreement with the National Police Federation. This resulted in dramatic increases to costs for municipalities and the provincial government. Alberta’s government supports efforts to compensate RCMP officers fairly. In this situation, however, the provincial government and municipalities were not included in negotiations. An Alberta model would put Albertans in control of critical decisions about policing in the province.

How would a transition impact municipalities?

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Municipal governments are important partners in Alberta's public safety system. Municipalities will not face increased costs should Alberta return to having its own provincial police service.

No Increased Costs for Municipalities

  • The provincial government has committed that municipalities would pay the same, or less for an Alberta provincial police compared to what they pay under the RCMP contract policing model. This would be the same for municipalities policed under the Provincial Police Service Agreement as well as for municipalities that contract for the provincial police's services.
  • The Alberta provincial police is designed from the ground up to be cost effective and efficient. By the end of the current contract,  it is likely the federal government will drastically reduce, or eliminate any subsidy provided for those that use the RCMP. This means that in the long run, having our own provincial police will ensure that Alberta will not be impacted by future federal cost hikes.
  • An Alberta provincial police will give municipalities and the provincial government greater say on future policing costs from areas such as salaries and equipment. This is not the case currently, as the federal government typically just makes decisions on important cost items and then sends invoices to provinces and municipalities.  During collective bargaining between the RCMP's union and the federal government, provinces and municipalities, who pay the largest share of the RCMP's costs, don't get to have a seat at the negotiating table.

Increased Input

A provincial police service will provide an increased level of municipal and local input compared to the federal government's contract policing model.

  • A provincial police would have a reformed governance model that includes a provincial police commission and local commissions to give municipalities more say in setting policing priorities and performance targets, both provincially and at the local level.
  • For the first time in Canada, rural, Indigenous and urban communities would have dedicated representation at the highest levels of provincial police oversight and governance. This type of oversight is not possible through the federal government's contract policing model.
  • A community-policing focus requires accountability at the local level. Local police commissions would give municipalities a stronger say in how policing is provided in their community. In the Alberta provincial police model, local police commissions would:
    ◦ Jointly set priorities for community policing services and community safety with their detachment commander(s).
    ◦ Give detachment commanders directions on police priorities for their communities.
    ◦ Establish local policies on policing in their communities.
    ◦ Formally participate in the selection of detachment commanders.
    ◦ Receive regular reports from their detachment commander(s) and monitor detachment performance in achieving community priorities, and provide recommendations for improvement.
    ◦ Provide regular feedback to the provincial police commission on local police performance and priorities.

Increased Service

A provincial police service will provide an increased level of service compared to the current RCMP contract policing model.

  • An Alberta provincial police would have more front line police officers compared to the RCMP contract policing model. More police officers means greater coverage, reduced response times and lower case loads per officer.
  • An Alberta provincial police would better address underlying causes of crime by creating a modern police service where mental health, addictions, and crisis intervention specialists work alongside police officers both in urban and rural areas.
  • Deployment models that would increase the number of police officers throughout rural Alberta, ensure greater local coverage, and increase the number of provincial police officers in smaller detachments.

Doesn’t the provincial government already have a say in how the RCMP is run in Alberta?

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The provincial government pays for police services by the RCMP in some communities. As such, the province has some say in high-level policing priorities that do not conflict with federal rules. Day-to-day operations and how the RCMP conducts its work are however, up to the RCMP.

These operational decisions include staffing levels, recruitment, and retention of employees. Transfers of members out of Alberta and open vacancies in detachments are areas of concern for the provincial government.

An Alberta provincial police would have more input into recruitment and retention strategies. Improved retention and reducing transfers would also reduce disruptions in service. This would provide options for police members to stay longer in communities where they have developed strong ties and local knowledge, all without having to sacrifice their career growth.

Some municipalities say they’re happy with the status quo. Why can’t we just improve the RCMP rather than build a new provincial police?

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The RCMP falls under federal jurisdiction. That means the province of Alberta does not have the authority to make changes or decisions on our own.

The federal government and RCMP make their decisions with all of Canada in mind. An Alberta provincial police would be able to make decisions based on the unique public safety needs of Alberta's communities. The authority to make these type of decisions would also stay within the province.

How would this affect First Nation communities in Alberta?

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This is an opportunity for Indigenous Peoples in Alberta to determine the future of policing in their communities.

The Alberta provincial police model envisions a new provincial police service that would support the creation and expansion of First Nations police services and work with them to ensure their continued viability.

The Government of Alberta supports the expansion of self-administered First Nations policing for First Nations who choose this option.

A new Community Policing Grant offers up to $30,000 for First Nations to assist in preparing a business case for self-administered policing. The business case will outline local needs, capital requirements, and transition considerations of developing their own self-administered First Nations police service.

First Nations police services are an opportunity to improve policing for First Nations communities, advance the goals of reconciliation, as well as address the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice.

If Alberta had its own provincial police, would there still be an RCMP presence in Alberta?

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Yes, there would still be many RCMP officers stationed in Alberta even if Alberta had its own provincial police. The RCMP provides federal policing across Canada. Much like Alberta, in Ontario and Quebec there are hundreds of RCMP officers currently working alongside local police. These RCMP members enforce federal laws including border integrity, national security, drugs and organized crime, cybercrime, financial crime, and international policing.

Could an Alberta provincial police be vulnerable to political interference? Who would hold a provincial police service accountable?

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All police services in Alberta operate independently from government. The recent revelations coming from the Mass Casualty Commission created to examine the April 18-19, 2020 mass casualty in Nova Scotia highlight the importance of police operational independence.

Just like the RCMP does today, an Alberta provincial police would continue to make day-to-day operational decisions in Alberta without any interference from the provincial government.

The proposed Alberta provincial model greatly increases the operational independence of the provincial police by recommending the creation of an independent provincial police commission to ensure the provincial police service operates free of any political influence. From day one, an Alberta provincial police would operate at ‘arms-length’ from the provincial government.

A provincial commission, with dedicated representation from rural, Indigenous, and urban communities, as well as proposed local police commissions, would strengthen civilian oversight and provide greater accountability to Albertans.

If you replace the RCMP with a provincial police service, won’t we lose millions of dollars in federal funding?

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Alberta's government wants more boots on the ground, better governance, local input and less bureaucracy. In short, Alberta is looking for a police service that prioritizes the needs of our residents. When compared to an annual provincial budget of $62 billion, it is clear that Alberta is able to fund a provincial police tailored for Albertans' needs, without having to increase costs for municipalities, Indigenous communities, and Albertans.

There is no guarantee that the federal government would continue to subsidize RCMP policing as much as they do now after the current contract expires. In fact, the subsidy could be eliminated completely.

Currently, the federal government contributes 30% of the cost for RCMP contract policing. The province pays the other 70%. This funding arrangement comes with an agreement that is structured to allow the federal government to have most of the say in how the RCMP operates.

Alberta's government is committed to not passing additional costs to municipalities. If an Alberta provincial police can improve the lives of Albertans, it’s a priority that can be funded through the budgeting process without having to raise taxes.

The transition study report estimates the one-time transition costs between $366 million and $371 million. How can Alberta justify such an expenditure?

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Across the county, RCMP costs are rising year after year. Alberta is already spending millions on policing, without the authority to adjust the services provided based on the needs of Albertans. With this one-time investment, the province's policing budget can be directed toward services that work for our communities.

Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador all pay for their own provincial police and have a greater say in how provincial policing is structured and delivered in those provinces.

The proposed Alberta provincial police model includes many innovative and progressive policing concepts. These concepts would result in better outcomes for Albertans and safer communities. The provincial government believes this makes an even stronger case to explore alternative models of provincial policing.

Would the cost of a provincial police service be downloaded onto municipalities?

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No, Alberta’s government has committed to not creating any additional costs for municipalities. They would pay the same, or less, than what they do under the RCMP contract policing model.

How can you ensure that the transition costs won’t balloon or that there won’t be service gaps that compromise public safety?

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The front-line transition from the RCMP to the new police service would occur over a two year period. A staged approach will reduce risks associated with transition.

The provincial police service would begin by taking command of a small group of detachments. Then, they would gradually expand to new areas. The process would be evaluated after the addition of each new group of detachments. The organization would learn and make any necessary adjustments as the transition progresses.

The contract for the RCMP has transfer formulas and provisions related to transition costs. Our transition costing model used detailed data supplied by the RCMP on their equipment, real estate, technology, human resources, and vehicles.

Learning from others is important too. The proposed transition roadmap draws on lessons from Surrey B.C.'s transition from the RCMP to their own municipal police service.

Tiered policing seems like a decrease in service. How can it be an improvement if police officers don’t respond to every call? Won’t this compromise public safety?

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Originally, PwC proposed two staffing approaches. The options featured two levels of officers:

  • PwC’s Model A introduced a mixture of police (Level 1) and peace officers (Level 2).
  • PwC's Model B would see only police officers (Level 1) with no peace officers (Level 2).

Many stakeholders expressed concern that Model A would result in fewer police officers compared the current model. Going forward, the Alberta Government is only considering Model B (only using Level 1 police officers).

With this model, Alberta will have more front-line police officers  compared to the RCMP contract policing model.  

A provincial police model allows us to redesign detachment deployment models. This gives us the option to increase the number of police officers stationed in smaller communities.

Where would the officers come from? What would happen to the RCMP officers that are currently working in Alberta?

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An Alberta provincial police would be able to recruit people who want to work and live in Alberta. This would be appealing to qualified candidates who are attracted to the rural Alberta lifestyle. Province-specific recruitment differs from the Canada-wide recruitment and placements of RCMP members.

A staged transition would allow time to recruit and train applicants. If RCMP members would like to stay in Alberta, and not be transferred far away, they would be welcomed as valuable members of the Alberta provincial police. The government of Alberta greatly values their experience and dedication.

There would still be RCMP officers stationed in Alberta even if Alberta had its own provincial police. The RCMP provides federal policing across Canada. Much like Alberta, in Ontario and Quebec there are hundreds of RCMP officers working alongside local police. These RCMP members enforce federal laws including border integrity, national security, drugs and organized crime, cybercrime, financial crime, and international policing.

How would you ensure that RCMP members who transfer to an Alberta provincial police are paid appropriately?

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The salary levels of Alberta provincial police officers will be comparable with Alberta's municipal police, such as Edmonton and Calgary police services.  Police officers risk their lives everyday to keep our communities safe, and the cost model developed for the Alberta provincial police ensures that provincial police officers are compensated accordingly.

Each RCMP member who chooses to transfer to an Alberta provincial police will have unique compensation considerations based on their years of service and rank level. The transition team will ensure that these considerations are reviewed in detail and RCMP members who transfer to an Alberta provincial police will not be financially disadvantaged from wanting to remain in Alberta.

If an RCMP members want to transfer to an Alberta provincial police, what would happen to their pension?

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Police in Alberta use the Special Forces Pension Plan (SFPP). The SFPP is a defined benefit pension plan for police officers, police chiefs, and deputy chiefs employed by local authorities in Alberta. SFPP is administered by Alberta Pensions Services Corporation.

The SFPP has a transfer agreement in place with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Pension Plan.

Alberta's government would ensure that RCMP members who choose to transfer to an Alberta provincial police would not face negative financial consequences from their choice.

How would this change affect municipalities that already have their own police service? For example, Calgary, Edmonton, Camrose, Taber, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Lacombe?

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Municipal police would continue to operate as normal. So would self-administered First Nations police services in Alberta. The transition to an Alberta provincial police service would only directly affect areas currently using RCMP contract policing.

There would be opportunities to strengthen the relationship between existing municipal police services and a provincial police service. This approach would reduce jurisdictional barriers between agencies. It will also leverage efficiencies and economies of scale.

See the following links for more information on Alberta's seven independent municipal police services and three self-administered First Nations police services:

What if our municipality wants to have its own police service?

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Alberta’s government supports municipal efforts to explore alternative policing models. The Community Policing Grant offers funds for communities to prepare a business case outlining local needs, capital requirements, and transition considerations for an independent police service.

Indigenous communities and municipalities interested in applying for the police service business case grant can send a written submission to jsg.engagement@gov.ab.ca.

Where would Alberta provincial police train recruits?

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Alberta provincial police recruits would train in Alberta. Training would prepare recruits for working in Alberta's unique context.

The province would partner with municipal police services to share facilities where appropriate. This collaboration would also provide an opportunity to develop standardized police training. Standardizing police training within Alberta would help improve teamwork across agencies when needed.

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The future of
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