Albertans are served by a law enforcement system that is made up of several organizations and types of personnel.
Under provincial legislation, urban municipalities with populations over 5,000 must arrange to provide policing services in their communities. Urban municipalities with populations of 5,000 or less, and all rural municipalities regardless of population, receive policing services from the RCMP under the provincial policing contract between Alberta and the federal government.
Police Act Review
For years, AUMA has been advocating for changes to policing, including how it is funded and how communities are served. In 2018, AUMA members passed a resolution calling for a comprehensive review of the Alberta Police Act. The previous government commenced a review in late 2018, and AUMA established a working group made up of municipalities of all sizes to inform our responses to consultation. This group developed a written submission for the review, in partnership with AUMA’s Safe and Healthy Communities Committee, in Spring 2019.
After the 2019 election of the current government, the Police Act review appeared to be on hold, but the Minister of Justice announced on June 8, 2020 that work to modernize the Police Act would be expedited. Although timelines for the review have not yet been established, AUMA plans to participate in consultations and build on our previous advocacy related to the Police Act. Any opportunities for further member engagement on this topic will be shared through Digest and with the Safe and Healthy Communities and Small Communities Committees (as timing permits).
New Police Costing Model
In September 2019, the provincial government released a draft police costing model that would apply to municipalities with populations under 5,000, as well as municipal districts and counties, that do not currently pay directly for RCMP services. Justice and Solicitor General also conducted a survey and accepted written submissions on the model, with engagement closing on October 15, 2019. The AUMA Police Act Working Group assisted in developing AUMA’s response to the call for feedback on the draft police funding model. The full submission can be viewed here.
The new police costing model was announced on December 4, 2019, The model reflects many of AUMA’s recommendations, such as use of population and equalized assessment to simulate demand and ability to pay, and the establishment of an Alberta Police Advisory Board with equal representation from AUMA and RMA to guide the implementation of the new model.
Communities will be eligible for subsidies that consider factors that may affect local policing costs:
- Shadow population: This takes into account costs associated with providing services to populations that don't live in a community and therefore don't contribute to its property tax base.
- Crime Severity Index (CSI): A community will be eligible for a subsidy if its average CSI over a three-year period is higher than the average for rural Alberta. CSI is a measurement used by Statistics Canada that places greater statistical weight on serious offences.
- Distance from RCMP detachment: This recognizes that communities without a detachment may experience longer response times.
- Enhanced officer positions: Communities with existing "enhanced" RCMP positions (officers employed by communities at their own expense) will no longer be billed for those positions.
Justice and Solicitor General has shared a spreadsheet that lists the costs for affected municipalities over the next five years, as well as sample calculations for the distribution of costs under the new model.
Budget 2020 highlighted the additional revenue the province will receive from all municipalities contributing to policing costs. Justice and Solicitor General committed to investing the funds generated by this new costing model ($286 million over five years) in frontline law enforcement. The budget also maintained funding for 50 new Crown prosecutors and their support staff, to help address backlogs in the justice system.
AUMA has asked for more detailed information about how the additional funds raised through the new costing model will be used to roll resources out to communities. In June 2020, the RCMP shared a document with us that outlines the new policing resources being rolled out in 2020-21.
AUMA is very concerned with the proposed timelines for implementation, which suggest that invoices will be issued as early as next spring, well after municipal budgets have been set for 2020. Municipalities were in a challenging position financially even before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. Local governments are continually required to make tough economic decisions, since, unlike the other two orders of government, they cannot run financial deficits. We recognize that absorbing these policing costs will be a significant undertaking for some municipalities given these current fiscal realities.
In meetings and letters to the provincial government, AUMA has emphasized the importance of delaying the implementation of the new police costing model until 2021 due to the cumulative impacts of COVID-19 and other pressures on municipal finances. In response to our letter formally requesting a one-year delay of implementation, the Minister of Justice stated that “[n]o decisions will be made on deferring police funding model invoicing until the COVID-19 crisis has passed and government can undertake a thorough assessment of impacts”. The full response from the Minister is available here.
Alberta Police Advisory Board
One of AUMA’s advocacy priorities with respect to policing has been to ensure that municipalities who are now paying for policing have a say in how police resources are distributed to ensure all Albertans are safe in their communities. The province has indicated that municipalities will have a say in resource deployment and monitoring through the Alberta Police Advisory Board.
This Board is being implemented in two phases:
- In the first year, an Interim Board will develop the structure and scope of the Advisory Board.
- On completion of the Interim Board’s mandate, the work of the operational Police Advisory Board will begin for a four-year term.
As per the Terms of Reference developed by Justice and Solicitor General, the Interim Board will comprise four representatives from the RMA Board, four representatives from the AUMA Board, and one representative from the Alberta Association of Police Governance Executive.
The Interim Board will be primarily focused on developing the appropriate board structure, governance processes, and mandate to support an efficient and effective operational Police Advisory Board. This Interim Advisory Board will also be responsible for keeping municipalities apprised of government policing priorities, initiatives, and Board mandate matters.
AUMA’s Interim Board appointments are as follows:
- Mayor Bill Given, City of Grande Prairie
- Deputy Mayor Angela Duncan, Village of Alberta Beach
- Councillor Tanya Thorn, Town of Okotoks
- Councillor Trina Jones, Town of Legal
Interim Board members were appointed to ensure broad municipal perspectives and to align with each of the four RCMP districts (Central Alberta District, Eastern Alberta District, Southern Alberta District, and Western Alberta District) as closely as possible. It is important to note that once the Interim Board has completed its mandate, AUMA will be reaching out to membership, looking for nominations to serve on the operational Police Advisory Board.
The Alberta Police Advisory Board held its first meeting on June 10, 2020. Key outcomes from this meeting include the election of Tanya Thorn, AUMA representative and Councillor for the Town of Okotoks, as Committee Chair and the election of Kara Westerlund, RMA representative and Councillor for Brazeau County as Alternate Chair. The Board also discussed potential mechanisms to meet its mandated responsibilities to report to and seek input from their respective organizational members; however, no final decisions around reporting and engagement were reached.
Once finalized and approved, the Interim Board’s Terms of Reference will be shared with AUMA members and posted on AUMA’s online policing hub.
If you have any questions about AUMA’s advocacy on policing, please contact Kelly Santarossa, Senior Policy Advisor, at 780-409-4315 or firstname.lastname@example.org