The Mail caught up with Drumheller Detachment Staff Sergeant Ed Bourque to reflect on policing operations in 2020 and what their focus will be in the coming year. Some responses are edited for brevity.
Looking back on 2020, what were the major issues police had to deal with?
1. Crime Reduction – working with our partners have been very active in working on this initiative. Uniform and plainclothes members have been conducting pro-active patrols, conducting curfew checks on those currently on court-ordered conditions, and generating intelligence and charges for breach of conditions on our local habitual offenders. Several search warrants have been executed, leading to arrests and seizures of drugs and weapons in and around our detachment area.
2. Accountability to Stakeholders / Police and Community Engagement and increased relations – our members have been assigned specific communities, both in the valley, and rural, which they are responsible for making general patrols to increase our visibility, as well as traffic enforcement (impaired driving and speeding). They have also been tasked with introducing themselves to the schools’ administrators. 3. Support for victims (domestic violence, victims of crime, and drug addiction situations) which are ongoing on a case-by-case basis, with the assistance of our local support agencies. With the absence of a local Victim Services Unit, our members are rolling out the Victim Services oversight, and we conducted a review this year, both of our files, and asking the public for their feedback on the quality of this service being provided. We will continue to take feedback on this and all our priorities;
4. Increased Police Visibility / Interaction in Communities, further to above we have been working with our media and radio stations by contacting them regularly to provide reports and initiatives in place based on our public requests, and the recent Community Engagement media blitz generated requests for increased traffic enforcement (in particular speeding and stunting in school & playground zones) and concern for animal poisonings which we continue to follow up with, alongside our support services such as our local Veterinarians, etc.;
5. Traffic Enforcement and seeking out impaired drivers and contribute to SafeRoads Alberta via Bill 21 - we have been complimenting our municipal traffic work by hosting select enhanced patrols, particularly to our communities outside the valley to increase police presence
6. Working with the Penitentiary Warden & SIO’s to ensure continued high quality of investigations, as well as our detachment more efficiently generating statistics on all Criminal, Provincial and Federal cases.
Did the pandemic slow the pace of work or exacerbate it?
After a complete review of the year and taking all into account, I have concluded there is no direct correlation between observed statistics and the pandemic.
With the pandemic, there are reports of rising issues with drug abuse, especially opioids, and mental health concerns. Locally did we see a substantive rise in these kinds of policing issues?
Can you outline any areas you feel were successes in local law enforcement last year?
All of the above in question 1 which illustrates our pro-active work, coupled with our regular response to calls for service, is a reflection of a productive, efficient year in policing.
Can you explain the impact of the Crime Reduction Unit?
Our local CRU, a joint forces initiative with our GIS, Uniform & Traffic sections, as well as our District CRU, ALERT & AGLC Teams, and neighboring detachments, continue to have a positive impact on our detachment areas. CRU also generates intelligence on their investigations via the public, Crimestoppers, COP, and Rural Crime Watch observations, to name a few – it is a great team approach that keeps our local and travelling habitual criminals looking over their shoulders.
Are you able to give an update on the staff complement at the Detachment? Are we at full strength? Do we have more officers coming in?
Our member staff complement is at full strength, and we are not expecting other officers coming in at this time.
The RCMP engaged in a community consultation at the end of last year, what have we learned?
It definitely reinforced we have the support of the community, they care enough to provide us feedback – good or bad, and the majority of residents are working together with one another and our detachment members to be our eyes and ears and report any and all suspicious activity. I can’t stress enough the small observations turn into large investigations.
What tools does the Provincial Administrative Penalties Act give officers on the ground?
Effective December 1, 2020, Alberta’s impaired driving laws have changed under Bill 21.
The Government of Alberta has introduced a new Immediate Roadside Sanction (IRS) program with more immediate consequences for impaired drivers on our provincial roads.
New sanctions for impaired drivers include:
• Fines up to $2,000
• Increased length of vehicle seizure up to 30 days for certain offences
• New mandatory education programs for repeat offenders
•Increased driver’s license suspensions for repeat offenders
•Expanded mandatory ignition interlock for repeat offenders
•Non-GDL drivers will be required to take a roadside test. Depending on the results and circumstances (of MAS or ASD), a member may proceed with criminal code impaired driving charges or immediate roadside sanctions.
•A member may choose to proceed with a conventional impaired driving investigation as well as new immediate roadside sanctions.
• Most non-criminal, first-time impaired drivers will be dealt with through immediate roadside sanctions, rather than the criminal code process.
•Commercial vehicle operators must abide by the zero-tolerance law (zero alcohol or drug blood levels).
The provisions of Bill 21 will assist RCMP detecting and apprehending more impaired drivers. The IRS eliminates lengthy court procedures, freeing up members to deal with other criminal activity, detect additional impaired drivers, and ensure communities are safe.
RCMP members will continue to use mandatory alcohol screenings (MAS) as they have been for the past two years.
Can you outline the focus areas of enforcement for the RCMP in Drumheller for the coming year?
Shortly, I and our Policing Committee via a survey, will be reaching out to our communities to ask their priorities for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year. Once I have the results, I will again create our APP. I anticipate our priorities will be similar to the past year, however, I also understand we must remain flexible for any new community priorities to ensure we are providing the best service possible.
Please add anything else you feel is important.
I would like to thank all our detachment area clients, stakeholders and partners we worked with this past year: Mayors & Councils, area Peace & Bylaw Officers, Sheriffs, all our first responders, Town Manager of Emergency Services and detachment building Public Works / Chamber of Commerce, countless volunteers who support us and continue to be our eyes and ears such as Alberta Citizens On Patrol Association members, Policing Committee, Citizens Advisory Committee, Rural Crime Watch, Big Country Anti-Violence Association, Salvation Army, community members, Schools’ Staff Members, Drumheller Dragons Hockey Club, Child & Family Services, Alberta Health Services, Probation, Crown Prosecutor’s Office, Court workers, and Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Defence Council, Bail Hearing Office, Drumheller Institution Warden and Staff, Southern Alberta District and HQ Support Units, Commissionaires, and my members and support staff who all work together diligently, and tirelessly to ensure safety and care of our communities.