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New Alberta RCMP head wants to 'work toward shared objectives' with provincial government

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Rob Hill wants to increase the number of RCMP officers in Alberta.

The province's new top Mountie, a 27-year policing veteran who accepted the position of commanding officer for Alberta's RCMP in March, currently oversees about 3,800 officers.

"Our number of applicants increased 77 per cent last year over the last 5 years," Hill told CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday.

"We are very forward facing when it comes to recruitment."

Hill's arrival to the job comes as Mike Ellis, the provincial minister of public safety and emergency services, expressed concerns about a shortfall in Alberta RCMP staffing levels.

Ellis said in April the RCMP has roughly 400 vacant positions to fill in the province.

"That's at a cost of $16 million of services that we are not getting," he said at the Alberta legislature.

The minister passed legislation this spring to enable the creation of an independent police force, preparing in the event the RCMP pulls out of local policing once its contract expires in 2032.

"In fact, the federal government actually assigned more resources to the group that's doing negotiations," he said.

Hill says there is "no indication" the RCMP is getting out of contract policing, adding that negotiations are already underway to allow Mounties to continue focusing on rural crime and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

"It would be naive of me to say RCMP has always been on the right side of history when it comes to indigenous communities -- we have not, but I can tell you in the future, we are making lots of strides," he said.

Hill says he hopes that work can happen with the province as a partner.

"I think the more we communicate, the more we're transparent and accountable, the more we'll work toward our shared objectives," he said.

Justice studies professor Dan Jones told CTV News Edmonton he believes a provincial police force is inevitable under the UCP government, suggesting it's time for the RCMP to evolve.

"It's going to be challenging for sure as the province has called out the RCMP on many different fronts," Jones said.

"If you look at the future of the RCMP, make them a true national police service, make them an FBI, have them do high-level investigations." 

Correction

This story has been updated to correct the number of officers Rob Hill oversees from 1,900 to 3,800.