By Glen Hicks, paNOW
Amidst the clamour for better policing in rural areas, Saskatchewan’s Progressive Conservative Party is calling for a provincial police force.
Party president Grant Schmidt said he’d be talking with rural directors at the SARM convention this week about the idea of combining existing government safety officers to help free up RCMP.
“We’re planning to consolidate agencies such as conservation officers, highway traffic officers, sheriff security and prison transfer services,” Schmidt told paNOW. “[This provincial police force] would have as part of its jurisdiction rural Saskatchewan, small towns and villages and to concentrate more on crime prevention than the RCMP has time for.”
Schmidt said the party had observed a public safety problem in some cities and some rural areas and solving these issues was an important role of government. He said RCMP were too understaffed and busy with major crimes.
“It’s not just [a problem] in rural areas but we’ve getting shootings in Regina far too often and something has to be done,” he said. “We’re not in power but if the SaskParty can figure out how this can be done it would be a good idea and if they can’t then they can ask us and we’ll help them implement it.”
Schmidt said the PC Party was not an official speaker at the SARM convention so he and colleagues would be working the corridors around official presentations to gauge opinion among rural directors and he’d be reaching out to Indigenous leaders too.
“We’ve heard First Nations who’ve said they don’t have good enough policing either,” he said. “They have crime problems, the RCMP is too busy and have too many major crimes going on so they don’t have time for crime prevention. A provincial police force should free up more RCMP policing for First Nations.”
Asked how this would be funded, Schmidt said there should be a consolidation of monies currently spent on justice and policing and the new police force would start in certain areas only before becoming province wide.
“We want to get it right,” he said.
Police Chiefs say there is already a provincial police force
Responding to the PC Party’s suggestion Marlo Pritchard, the President of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs, said this province already had a provincial police force because the RCMP are contracted to do that.
“[But if the PC Party] is looking at a model similar to the Ontario Provincial Police of the Quebec Provincial Police there’s definitely a discussion item there, but right now the RCMP are our provincial police force,” he said.
Pritchard said all municipalities work very closely with the RCMP with things like the combined traffic units, the newly-formed provincial response team and with a number of investigative units across the province.
“It would be a political decision should they wish to change the policing model in Saskatchewan and that would require public consultation,” he said.
As for amalgamating various government security officers Pritchard said that was a conversation that was already happening. He said highway and conservation officers were already part of the provincial response team along with municipal police to possibly be the first responders to crimes-in-progress.
Pritchard couldn’t speak directly to whether the RCMP are stretched too thin in rural areas but said while resources were an issue crime prevention strategies start with individuals in those communities and police could help with that.
“You need to be aware of your surroundings, your neighbours, have a neighborhood watch, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “It becomes a community. You can’t have a police officer on every street corner nor on every quarter section of land, it’s just too vast of a province for that. But hopefully incorporating elements like the combined traffic units into the provincial response team will help with some of the issues.”