By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
By January 2016, the Town of Coaldale will have a new RCMP police service serving its community. Part of the town transition between the Lethbridge Regional Police Service (LRPS) to the RCMP is setting up a police committee. At a Town of Coaldale council meeting held Mar. 23, a report was submitted to council from administration with a request for council to decide on whether to create a Police Advisory Committee (PAC) or a Policing Committee (PC).
Recently, at a previous council meeting held Feb. 9, Lesley Kelly of the Alberta solicitor general’s office provided council with a detailed and discursive breakdown of the differences between the RCMP PC and the PAC. The report stated, while both options provide a forum for citizen engagement, the differences lie in structure and operation.
Once decided, administration can assemble a draft terms of reference or bylaw for council’s consideration, which is anticipated to be completed in April for council review. “We want to make sure we’re as proactive as possible,” said Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kalen Hastings, during his report to council.
Coun. Roger Hohm noted he was sold on going the PAC route after the presentation by Kelly in February to town council. “I think it’s probably, for our size of a community, all that we really need,” said Hohm.
According to Coun. Bill Martens, he believes there should be more than one council member on a policing committee. “I think there should be more than one,” said Martens.
At the present time, Hohm responded to Martens concern, the current LRPS police committee has only one council member in place. “Given that, I don’t think there’s a lot of difference in what we’ve been under, for the last 10 years,” Hohm added.
Coun. Sherrie Duda said she believes it’s up to council to decide how many council members sit on a police committee. “More than one would be very helpful,” said Duda. “Just for even rotational purposes.”
Especially for the initial launch of a new policing model, Mayor Kim Craig explained, an advisory committee has been a favourite of other municipalities, until municipalities have found their way over time. “I think the PC is pretty prescriptive and restrictive for our needs,” said Craig.
During the discussion Craig added he would lean strongly towards the PAC model. “To give us a bit of a breaking in period at least and there’s nothing precluding us from going back or doing something else,” said the mayor.
Coun. Duda noted the only concern she has with going the PAC route is within the model complaints about the police service are made directly to the RCMP, as opposed to a citizen receiving the complaint. “That’s my only concern with going the PAC route over the PC. It does take a little bit away from the public,” said Duda, adding she would be willing to go with the PAC model as a starting point and see how it works out.
The motion was passed by council to direct administration to take the steps necessary to create a Police Advisory Committee (PAC) and for administration to draft a proposed terms of reference for the PAC for council to review, prior to ratification in April.