The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) doesn't believe there's value in creating an Alberta Provincial Police Service (APPS) and wants the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to remain Alberta's primary municipal police service provider.
Rural municipalities believe information shared by the Alberta government left significant questions unanswered on how an APP would increase police service levels in rural areas, decrease overall policing costs or increase local input into policing.
RMA president Paul McLaughlin says they support the RCMP and want to provide them with more resources to address the underlining causes of rural crime.
"It doesn't mean that they're static. We want to continue to work with them to make them better, and that's our goal as an organization."
McLauchlin says the call for autonomy from Ottawa is a red herring. He says there's an existing federal-provincial RCMP policing agreement where Alberta's Minister of Justice and Solicitor-General help set objectives, priorities, and goals. Furthermore, the province collaborates with K Division on the development of business plans and strategic objectives for provincial policing.
Plus. municipalities directly communicate their concerns to local detachments.
"Ottawa has no involvement in determining policing priorities in Alberta, plain and simple. That's such a red herring discussion to say it's a question of autonomy. It's already autonomous from our perspective."
"What I really want to talk about is let's deal with the root cause of crime, mental health support, poverty, drug addiction, and judicial reform. That's what my members have been asking for."
The RMA believes the transition cost of $366 million is an unnecessary burden to place upon taxpayers on top of the 30 per cent loss of federal funding for provincial policing.
"Some of the things [the RCMP] have come up with are wrap-around services that look at the root cause of crime. That's where we want to spend our energy instead of designing a new APP Logo, or whatever," says McLaughlin.
Beyond the finances, he questions if the province could even recruit the people required to launch the service.
"Our question is, can you really hire 3,000 officers and 1,500 support during probably one of the most tremendous workforce shortages, including policing, in North America, if not worldwide?"
The province has had extensive engagements with municipalities on the question, but as yet hasn't gone to the public. McLaughlin believes they won't receive a favourable response when they do.
"Add it to the next provincial election as a referendum question if you want to know what the general public thinks, because we're pretty connected with our people, and nobody thinks it's a good idea."
An online poll conducted from Oct. 27 to Nov. 4, 2021, by Pollara on behalf of the National Police Federation supports his position. Seventy per cent of those polled opposed replacing the RCMP and 80 per cent expressed satisfaction with current RCMP policing.
At an Alberta Municipalities spring leaders caucus, 81 per cent of delegates opposed the APPS model, urged the province to invest in the resources to reduce crime, and called for a referendum to be held on the question before a decision was reached by the province.