By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
It’s been just over a year since the RCMP took over policing duties in the Town of Coaldale. Prior to Jan. 1, 2016 the Lethbridge Regional Police Services (LRPS), at the time, took care of all things policing in the Lethbridge County community.
According to Staff Sergeant/Detachment Commander for the Coaldale Rural/Municipal Detachments Glenn Henry, the transition went fairly well.
“We got a lot of support from our friends with the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) right at the start of last year at this time and that made for a very smooth transition. Their support has carried on. They’ve been very good with us and we’ve done a lot of joint investigations and I think we all realize criminals have no borders,” Henry explained.
“I think what is really important is we have good communications and sharing with our LPS partners and we do — we have very good relations with them,” he added.
Henry noted the detachments also had support from neighbouring detachments including Raymond, Taber, Picture Butte and Fort Macleod.
“They’ve been very helpful. It hasn’t been too many times where we need to call them, but when we have, they definitely stood up and helped,” he said.
Henry also said the detachments have had great support from the public — the residents of Coaldale and Lethbridge County. “Very little complaints that way. That’s been really good.”
Henry added support from the Town of Coaldale, Lethbridge County and the Town of Coalhurst has also been fantastic. The Town of Coaldale’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kalen Hastings, Henry said, has been good to work with, as well. “I can’t ask for any more support. It makes my position and my job easy to have good support from them,” Henry said.
Henry is also impressed with some of the officers, especially in regards to some of the higher profile investigations.
“We had a few of them. Not necessarily in the Town of Coaldale, but on the rural side we’ve had five motor vehicle fatalities. Those take a lot of our focus and I think they’ve done a very good job with those investigations. A lot of help on those, of course, has come from our fire department partners and our EMS partners. I can’t say more than enough positives about the Town of Coaldale fire department and the Town of Coalhurst fire department. They’ve stepped up and helped in every way they can,” he said, adding volunteer firefighters have come out to the motor vehicle fatalities as first responders and have often stayed on scene with fire trucks to help with lighting and to direct traffic, while RCMP officers investigate.
“All the extra stuff is really appreciated and really makes our job much easier and allows us to get on with the investigation. You’ve got to remember these are, in most cases, volunteers,” he added.
When Henry looks back at 2016 and at some of the negatives, he most definitely views the five fatalities as negatives.
“I don’t want to see anybody killed on the highway. We have to worry and deal with the loved ones and the aftermath with that and the tragedy that brings to families and communities. Five is way too many,” Henry noted.
Another negative this past year in Coaldale and in a rural area, Henry said, were Fentanyl overdoses.
“We’ve had two relatively young people die from Fentanyl drug overdoses. I hope that’s not a trend. It’s something we’ll certainly monitor,” said Henry.
In 2017, Henry said, RCMP officers — similar to officers at other police services — are being issued naloxone or Narcan for their safety, in case officers are accidentally exposed.
“We’re starting to come across these drugs like we’ve never had before. We know Fentanyl is a very dangerous drug and we hope we won’t see it here in Coaldale, but we have already. We know it’s here,” he said.
Back to the positives — Henry said it has been challenging in 2016 to have two different offices — with one in Lethbridge and one in Coaldale — and managing the two units, but he is thankful for Coaldale municipal employees and public servants in the city.
“It’s fairly seamless for the constables working in both locations, but we literally have public servants working in Lethbridge and we have two municipal employees that work in Coaldale. It’s challenging to manage those two offices, but it’s been made very easy with the quality of people we have — the two municipal employees have been just fantastic. They represent us. We sometimes forget the public will interact probably with our municipal employees and our public servants more than with our uniformed members.”
Henry said the detachments have also had great support from local mayors and councils.
One of the challenges and a work in progress going forward in 2017, Henry said, will be the new RCMP detachment building to be built in Coaldale.
“That process is going to be a fairly slow process, it has to be. We’re dealing with the federal government and their processes, we have to respect that. Where the building is right now is the land has been purchased, the architect has been named and the security clearances on the architect have been completed and now the architect has started to give us some plans,” he said.
“Those plans are subject to a lot of revision right now and are a work in progress. We don’t have a final plan just yet. We don’t know what the building is going to look like. There’s also a security component to it, in that we can’t tell too much about what the plans will be like. It’s not for public knowledge. An RCMP detachment is like a jail cell and it’s like a bank vault — we have exhibits, we have firearms, we have prisoners and we have a lot of things that are restricted access to the public. We certainly can’t and won’t make our exact plans known,” Henry added.
Going forward with the building is still a number of years away, Henry said.
“It will take awhile to build, but before we build it, we have to have that plan.” After the plan is in place and finalized the next phase, he added, will be the plans going out to tender to a construction company.
In the meantime, Henry said, the current plan is to continue with the Coaldale Municipal Detachment being located within the Town of Coaldale Administrative Building on 20 Avenue or on the main street downtown. The Coaldale Rural Detachment remains in Lethbridge on Stafford Drive.
“When a new building is open, all the sections from the Lethbridge building will come out to the Coaldale building. That is why it’s a significant building. It’s not just for the detachment itself. It’s for a bunch of support sections which includes traffic, a police service dog, our firearms office, some specialized radio equipment, technicians and a number of sections that will be coming out. It will be a big building,” Henry explained.
Being part of the community is also very important, according to Henry.
“We’re doing a fair amount with our School Resource Officer (SRO) in the schools. We’re also having him out at the seniors’ centre,” he said. Plus, the detachment is reaching out to the community and building relationships with local organizations.
“It’s a work in progress. I think we’re going in the right direction. I’m pleased where we are at. We can always improve, we’re never perfect. One of my goals is, I want us to be approachable. The RCMP is the largest police force in Canada, but I want the residents of Coaldale to understand we’re contracted to be their local police service. We’re their town police,” Henry said.