The RCMP in southwest and south central Saskatchewan are examining different ways to address policing in the province’s rural areas. A public meeting on policing in Gravelbourg and the surrounding districts was held at the Lions Club on the evening of January 15. Former Assistant Commissioner Cal Corley and RCMP Inspector Mark Harrison chaired the open town house-styled meeting, which brought in a crowd of concerned spectators.
“We’re looking at a range of models,” said Corley, who represented the non-profit organization, Community Safety Knowledge Alliance. According to Corley, policing in Canada is becoming more complex. Officers are facing volatile situations with greater regularity. “It used to be rare for a member to get into a gun fight. It used to be rare for a member to get their car rammed,” said Corley, who had a long and distinguished career in policing. He was also the head of the Canadian Police College from 2008-2014.
Coupled with facing an increase in criminal violence, the RCMP are also encountering a shortage in recruits. Moreover, the RCMP are having difficulties in finding the appropriate amounts of staff to serve rural communities like Gravelbourg. “We’re trying to attract recruits to smaller communities, but most want to live in larger centres,” Corley further illuminated.
There had been rumours on social media about the closure of Gravelbourg’s detachment, with policing operations prospectively moving to Swift Current. However, Harrison explained this wasn’t the case – detachments in Gravelbourg, Ponteix and Morse and other rural areas in southern Saskatchewan will remain open. “We’re not going to be closing any detachments,” Harrison said. “But we’re hoping to make things better. We’re already at the bare minimum,” Harrison continued, as he outlined the staffing issues RCMP officers are tackling in rural Saskatchewan.
One idea the RCMP might consider is to post officers based in Swift current to Gravelbourg for a short term then exchange them for another group after a week – a model which had proven to be successful for the RCMP serving in Prince Albert’s rural surroundings. “Police get deployed for seven days then return to their families in Prince Albert,” Harrison summarized.
Corley floated a plan to maintain a relief team – a group existing to help to counter policing needs in rural areas. Corley also reemphasized the force’s desire to work with the Saskatchewan’s rural communities on an individual basis, even if the model of policing is eventually transformed. “Whatever is designed for this area has to be unique for this area. Bilingual services will still be taken into account,” Corley further explained, as he discussed Gravelbourg’s unique policing requirements.
Corley’s report on the information gathered from the town hall meetings about policing in Ponteix, Aneroid, Gravelbourg and many other communities in southwestern and south central Saskatchewan will draw conclusions on future decisions made by the RCMP after Corley meets with the province’s Ministry of Policing and Corrections in May 2020.