The provincial government is planning to change the law to allow rural municipalities and very small towns to set up joint regional police forces as a way to help address rural crime.
The announcement in the Throne Speech at the legislature on Wednesday is welcome news to Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) Rresident Roy Orb.
“We’re eager to hear more details on that, but we’re pleased,” he told 980 CJME in an interview Thursday.
While rural crime was addressed as a priority for the government, Orb said SARM will have to wait to learn more of the details of how such regional police forces might work alongside RCMP.
“Perhaps they could be helping with the RCMP and the Protection Response Team (PRT) as well, maybe doing traffic enforcement, maybe following up on some of the less severe crimes as well,” Orb explained, referring to the rural crime team launched in April.
The PRT, which was formed by giving additional powers to conservation officers and highway patrol officers, was also mentioned as a continued priority for the government.
Orb said SARM has been pushing for more RMs to work together with each other and surrounding communities and the idea of regional police forces could be a step forward in the right direction.
“The only concern that we do have, we don’t want the RCMP funding to be cut back in any way shape or form and we believe instead that we need to have more RCMP officers out in rural Saskatchewan and we need to have greater visibility,” he said. “So I think we have seen some improvements on that, but we wouldn’t want to see that fall by the wayside.”
Orb also raised some concerns about how RMs and small municipalities with populations under 500 people will be able to pay to hire police officers.
At this point there is a question of whether they would have to fund it alone or if there would be a potential cost-sharing program offered by the province.
He points out RMs already have a cost-sharing formula with the province to help pay for some of the rising costs of the RCMP, but they don’t get any of the revenue from traffic fines.