The information session was an opportunity for members of the RCMP to visit the town to discuss with residents what to expect from the upcoming transition of policing service and provided residents a chance to ask questions relating to the RCMP being stationed and of future service in Coaldale.
“We’re very excited to have this presentation. I don’t know about you but I’m a little bit nervous with all these policemen around,” joked Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig, during his introduction to what was dubbed an RCMP 101 informational Town Hall meeting.
The moderator for the evening’s function was Lethbridge resident Gillian Nish.
Inspector Glenn de Goeij, acting officer in charge of corporate and client services branch for the RCMP, provided an overview of RCMP services and the transition of services with a power point presentation.
The inspector noted communities such as Coaldale have options, especially when it comes to community engagement.
Considerations could be a police advisory committee or police committee, which is mandated to seek and gather community input into the policing priorities for the specific community or area.
Presently, the Detachment Commander or Chief of Police position is vacant at the Lethbridge RCMP detachment.
“The community of Coaldale will be involved in the selection of the detachment commander, which will oversee on the grassroots level moving forward, that smooth transition to the Coaldale detachment,” said the inspector, during his presentation.
With RCMP policing service there are also many processes available to handle complaints, issues, or concerns.
Also, the inspector explained, there will be a Lethbridge rural detachment, as well as a Coaldale municipal detachment working together in tandem to leverage resources to the benefit of not only Coaldale but to the surrounding area.
Coaldale will have a Post-Concept Detachment Model, which will include specialized services including a police dog, forensics and an Integrated Traffic Unit and will have access to emergency response teams, explosives disposal unit teams and homicide teams.
“All of those services are provided to our 43, currently, municipal police service jurisdictions — as part of the package that the province runs under the provincial police service agreement,” said de Goeij.
“Policing has become very complex. Policing isn’t what it used to be when I first started,” he added. A one-stop shop, so to speak, for all of Coaldale’s law enforcement needs.
According to the inspector, there will be seven RCMP officers in Coaldale and another eight officers from the Lethbridge component for a total of 15 officers with two support staff. Just for historical purposes, Coaldale was once policed by the RCMP in the past.
The inspector said communities over 5,000 require their own municipal police service agreement with Public Safety Canada.
The RCMP is the service provider and the agreement is between the federal government and the community of Coaldale and the process is well under way.
He added, if at any point in time the Post-Concept Model isn’t working, the model can be changed in terms of how the policing is provided — dependent on the wishes and needs of the community.
Coaldale detachment will be a full-service detachment.
“There will be obviously support staff available — those hours are to be determined and you will have a full service suite of services here in Coaldale out of a facility,” said de Goeij, adding the building itself will be co-located in Coaldale with specialized RCMP resources once a building is established.
Inspector de Goeij said a police services building will not be in Coaldale automatically on Jan. 1, 2016 — as it takes close to two years to get a policing facility built because of standards and special requirements.
“We are in the planning stages now. We are looking at securing a location,” he said.
“We look for accessibility, we look for the prime location where both the public and those coming through a community will clearly see that this community has a police service facility and is very involved in policing.”
Until the new facility is built, de Goeij said, the RCMP will have a storefront detachment located in Coaldale.
“We are actively now working with the town to identify a storefront location,” he added.
When January 2016 rolls around officers will start and end their shifts in Lethbridge, according to the inspector.
“We obviously need places where they can lock up their weapons, where we can secure exhibits and those sorts of things, which would be cost prohibitive for a two-year period to do it in the area of Coaldale. But they will start their shifts at the current Lethbridge building but they will be out and working out of the storefront location in Coaldale.”
The RCMP, de Goeij said, has a good working relationship with the LRPS and will continue to do so for a smooth transition. He also said future information sessions could be held if the need arises.
For now, the process has begun to look for and replace the vacant local Chief of Police or NCO position, as early as possible in 2015. “The process is in play now,” he noted.
The inspector also noted Coaldale residents will not start paying for RCMP policing service until Jan. 1, 2016. “All these things are being done with the co-operation of the province in anticipation of that Jan. 1, 2016 date,” said de Goeij.
Following the presentation, residents in attendance had an opportunity to ask questions regarding the transition of police servicing from LRPS to the RCMP in Coaldale. One of the main concerns from residents was if Coaldale schools will lose a School Resource Officer (SRO) position in the transition and another concern was if there will be a gap in service during shift changes of officers.
One resident stated children get to know the same face of an SRO — whether the child is in pre-kindergarten or in Grade 12. The resident added children also have learned respect of the uniform.
“I think it’s something for town council to consider when they’re planning their financial resources,” said the resident, in regards to the town looking into the possibility of having an SRO or similar program in place at the schools in the community. The inspector responded by noting the RCMP does have options including the DARE program or officers in the schools, if the community wishes for these programs to be utilized in the future.
Another resident asked if Coaldale will be left without coverage at any point and how will the community be covered policing service-wise during shift changes and transitional periods.
The inspector responded by noting there will never be a time when a call for service comes in and there will not be a response.
“If something goes wrong and you need a police officer right now they will be activated,” said de Goeij.
A representative from the Coaldale and District Chamber of Commerce asked, from an economic standpoint, if the RCMP is going to be automatically purchasing fuel and using mechanics in the community when officers are stationed in Coaldale.
“We don’t restrict where the officers get fuel, we don’t have certain agreements in place. They are encouraged though to buy fuel in the local community and we get the vehicles serviced in the local community,” said de Goeij, adding if officers are out and about in the rural communities and need fuel, they will fuel up if need be.
“We are part of the local community,” he added.