Does Manitoba need a provincial police service?


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Has the time come for the establishment of a Manitoba provincial police service? I expect this question to get an increasing amount of attention in the next 12 months.

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Has the time come for the establishment of a Manitoba provincial police service? I expect this question to get an increasing amount of attention in the next 12 months.

In the last year labour shortages have been even more pronounced than usual across a number of occupations and policing has been no exception. While once quite competitive for entry, staff shortages have been an ongoing problem with the RCMP in recent years.

As of late, this labour shortage has drawn comment from rural municipalities, rural residents and the provincial government as the RCMP has struggled to sufficiently staff the contracts they have to police the vast majority of rural Manitoba.

Given the critical nature of public safety, it makes one question how long the Province of Manitoba wants to be dependent on a national organization to serve a provincial need. Perhaps it is time to begin the transition to a provincial police force and place greater control over the variables in the hands of Manitobans.

Once a vocation that might have been viewed as a labour of love, municipal policing has become a very attractive profession, from a pay and benefits perspective, over the past 20 years. A quick scan of the City of Brandon salary disclosure report shows more than 100 people at the police station making more than $100,000 per salary, many north of $130,000.

While public safety will not be an option nor choice for everyone, it has become much more attractive from a compensation point of view. As such, Manitoba may be able to do a better job of maintaining a workforce than the RCMP has been able to achieve. Further, one would think that when there is a national shortage, the RCMP is not necessarily going to have Manitoba at the top of its priority list, which by definition a provincial police service would.

A provincial strategy for policing could also help to address other challenges. Having just come through a municipal election, the cost of policing in Winnipeg has once again drawn attention. The current in-house model for training officers employed by the Winnipeg Police Service is one of the factors that elevates costs in that city, which currently employs the majority of Manitoba-trained officers.

The need for a new approach to police training is not only driven by costs and labour supply. Quality and culture are also important considerations.

Beyond cost, this in-house model for police training may be suboptimal for contributing to the cultural change that is needed in policing. Third-party professional training is more likely to be able to help shift the culture, as well as recruiting and supporting a more diverse set of candidates for future police officers.

Obviously, when considering options for a change of this magnitude, it may be wise to consider how one could phase in the implementation. This makes it more realistic in terms of ramping up provincial police and manageable for the RCMP to move members in a way that allows them to then have full complements in some regions while vacating others.

First Nations and northern policing may be a logical place to start. Many First Nations have already shown initiative by developing their own services. Perhaps the province could support Indigenous peoples in this pursuit as part of the larger reconciliation efforts, in addition to having a sustainable policing strategy.

Assiniboine Community College has built a solid track record of providing professional police training and I believe it could be helpful. In addition to police studies, public safety certificates and advanced diplomas, the college is an official training provider to First Nations safety officers, community safety officers and institutional safety officers. We have a good track record of professional development training through our public safety training centre and simulation centre.

We know there is more we can do for policing in Manitoba in conjunction with Manitoba Justice, policing partners, other public safety organizations and communities.

We look forward to what I believe will be an inevitable conversation about how we make policing sustainable across the province.

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