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Grande Prairie council votes to dump RCMP, create municipal police service


The majority of Grande Prairie's council voted in favour of ditching the RCMP and creating a local police force early Tuesday morning.

Debate on the topic went past midnight, with councillors eventually voting 8-1 in favour of replacing the RCMP.

"These decisions are not taken lightly," Grande Prairie mayor Jackie Clayton told her colleagues. "We are elected to make decisions. We cannot abdicate our decision-making process. We need to make a decision today."

She was one of eight to vote in favour of ceasing RCMP service.

Coun. Gladys Blackmore also voted in favour of moving to a municipal police service.

"I did not think that I’d be in this position when we started consultation two and a half years ago, I thought I’d be voting in opposition.

"I've reached the conclusion that although RCMP have offered us a stellar service for many, many years, since the establishment of Grande Prairie as a town in 1914, there has been some serious weaknesses that have not been to our advantage."

Blackmore cited RCMP training issues as one of the reasons for moving to a local force.

"I'm frustrated by the fact that 40 out of our 97 officers have come directly to us from Depot, and that means they are inexperienced, and they still require a significant amount of training, which the RCMP chooses to send them away for."

Chris Thiessen was the only councillor who opposed, citing concerns the decision was being rushed.

"I think big decisions take time. Good decisions are never rushed," he told council before the vote.

"Community safety is still pretty good, we don’t have any murders or major crimes, and it seems weekly we get big drug busts."

"I'll continue to support policing as the way it was."

A council presentation prepared by consulting group MNP pegged the five-year cost to phase in a Grande Prairie police service at $169 million, roughly $19 million more than staying with RCMP.

The province has offered the city $9.7 million to help with the startup cost and transition.

The transition will take five years but local police are expected to start serving the city of 63,000 within three years.

In order to keep that timeline, the city will next seek permission from the provincial government to change policing models and create a local service, pass a bylaw to create a police commission, and notify the federal government of its decision.


On Tuesday, Thiessen spoke about his decision not to support a municipal force.

He said he was concerned community members hadn't had time to come to an informed decision because the final report on the project was only made available two weeks ago.

"We’re sitting on a final report we only gave the community two weeks to digest," he told CTV News Edmonton. "If we’re going to do this well, we need our members on board and they need to understand. And for me personally, the RCMP is a world class service, and has always given our community great policing."

Clayton also spoke to CTV News about the decision.

She said the city has been considering a move to a municipal force since 2018, and significant public consultation has been done in that time.

"We did a very extensive consultation plan in our community that included social media, online engagement, radio ads, it included open sessions in a town hall format," she said.

"It was the single-largest engagement the city’s ever done, as well as the largest results in engagement."

Clayton says the new model will allow significant input from the public in the future.

"This engagement doesn't stop yesterday with the decision. When the commission is appointed, the expectation is that the community will be able to access the commission, the meetings will be public, you'll be able to engage with the commission and share your concerns."

Mike Ellis, minister of public safety and emergency services, was congratulatory when asked about the decision on Tuesday at the legislature.

"Looks like Grande Prairie is heading down a positive path that is best for their community," he told reporters.

"This is about empowering the municipalities. I would say that Grande Prairie did a thorough and independent study, and they came to the conclusion that this is the path they want to do."

He added that about a dozen other municipalities have approached the province about looking at other options for policing, but didn't disclose which ones.

The RCMP responded to the decision on Tuesday with a written statement.

"While we support the responsibility of municipal leaders to evaluate their community services and listen to what their citizens want and need, I and the members of the Grande Prairie RCMP Detachment are naturally disappointed in this decision. We have been proud to live, work and serve in Grande Prairie," said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki in a written statement.

"The RCMP will continue in their contract service for the Grande Prairie region during the transition period."

"Throughout this process, I have heard about the respect and appreciation the communities have for the work of our employees, and I hear that repeated around the province. Their work is valued and appreciated. Going forward, we will continue to focus on maintaining our strong partnerships in the province and on serving Grande Prairie residents and the surrounding community."

The National Police Federation also responded to the decision.

"It’s obviously not what we wanted, and based on the number of delegates that attended the meeting last night voicing their concern, not really what the citizens of Grande Prairie wanted either," Kevin Halwa told CTV News.

"We will be here to support our members through the transition and make sure they’re dealt with respectfully and properly, and we will be holding the City of Grande Prairie and its council accountable to keep the transition timely."

With files from CTV Edmonton's Sean Amato. Top Stories

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