Southwest Saskatchewan residents tell RCMP not to centralize policing in the region

Highway #35 reopens following police investigating a two pick-up truck collision that left one dead and two others with non-life-threatening injuries. Files / Global News

The Mayor of Shaunavon, Sask. remains concerned the RCMP are considering a super-hub to police southwest Saskatchewan following a town hall meeting in his community.

“They say that there’s nothing happening, they’re just sort of investigating some new ideas for retention and recruitment for members, but in fact, I think probably quite a bit has been done,” Mayor Grant Greenslade said in an interview with Global News Tuesday.

About 400 people attended the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre Monday evening to hear the police present and offer feedback, the mayor said.

In early January, the police distributed a memo to communities in and around the Swift Current (rural), Gravelbourg, Leader, Maple Creek, Morse, Ponteix and Shaunavon detachments.

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It stated the RCMP were reviewing their deployment model in the region and would be hiring Meyers Norris Penny to do a study that would “assess the viability of a super-hub policing concept for the Swift Current region” and “develop a phased implementation plan, communication plan and evaluation framework.”

The police scheduled a series of town hall meetings for this week. The meeting in Shaunavon, and a concurrent one in Ponteix, were the first.

“It looked to me like their decision on some of these matters was already made,” Greenslade said.

“If they really wanted to work through a solution, wouldn’t they have come to us ahead of hiring Meyers Norris Penny for this elaborate sort of investigation into a super-hub model?”

RCMP Cpl. Rob King maintains nothing has happened yet and that the police are genuinely soliciting feedback in a series of seven meetings near those detachments this week.

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“Right now, we’re looking at the point of more assessing what we’re doing,” King said “Are we doing it the best, most efficient way possible given the finite resources that we have?”

In addition to recruitment and retention challenges, the vast area police have to cover was also identified in the memo.

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“The new deployment model will provide the RCMP with greater flexibility to manage staffing needs,” the memo states, noting the existing detachments will remain open and there will continue to be an officer presence.

Retired Shaunavon RCMP officer Bruce Evenson, who was at the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre, said he believes the police are interested in hearing from members of the public like him, who do want to see a community-policing model continue.

“I get the sense they have obviously talked about it and they’re trying to be innovative,” said Evenson. “I hope that they will listen.

“The whole time I was in the RCMP, I was always told the community-based policing theory. They always wanted you involved in the community.”

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Ahead of a town hall meeting in Morse Tuesday, administrator Mark Wilson said his community needs “more police presence, not less,” citing anecdotal evidence of an increase in crime, such as break-and-enters.

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He said addressing the root causes of crime actually requires police to get to know a community and its unique challenges.

“Some of the comments I’ve heard to date are that probably a decision has already been made. It’s just a bit of a public relations exercise,” Wilson said.

“We’re hoping that’s not the case.”

Police had planned a meeting in Leader Tuesday night as well. They have scheduled town halls in Gravelbourg and Maple Creek for Wednesday night and near the Swift Current (rural) detachment for Thursday night.

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