By Cole Parkinson
With the Taber Trout Pond officially re-opened in July, discussions continue on how the Taber Police Service will be made the police of jurisdiction in the area.
The RCMP currently holds jurisdiction as the Trout Pond resides inside Municipal District of Taber boundaries, and Taber town council have made it clear they want the Taber Police Service to be the main police force who patrols it.
The issue was brought forward to the Taber Municipal Police Commission after town council made a motion at their June 25 meeting for the police commission to investigate the feasibility of adding not only the Trout Pond but other town properties to their policing jurisdiction.
Since the commission doesn’t meet in July, a special meeting was held on July 31 to go over the request.
“I received a CC of correspondence that was to commission from the mayor on behalf of council in regard to a motion that was made in the council meeting on June 25, asking for the Taber Municipal Police Commission to investigate the feasibility of the addition of the Trout Pond and other Town of Taber properties in the area west of Highway 864 to its policing jurisdiction. The town has invested a lot of money into the land that they own but it is not within the corporate limits of the Town of Taber. The area is called the Trout Pond and it also incorporates the Taber landfill,” said TPS chief Graham Abela. “I was asked at a recent meeting that I attended by council, whether or not the Taber Police Service could become the police service of jurisdiction or assets with policing in the area. It’s just a matter, for me, of course, that any correspondence from commission comes to commission for discussion and then whatever direction from there, commission to the chief, can be done at that point in time.”
Representatives of the commission though wanted further information from the chief if it was feasible and what the process would look like if they wanted to pursue it further.
“One of the ways in which a police service obtains jurisdiction of a specific location is for the location to become within the corporate limits of the jurisdiction which the police operates,” explained Abela.
Councillor Joe Strojwas, who serves as one of two town council representatives on the commission, made the original motion at Taber town council and he explained that the motion was simply for them to explore the option of the TPS policing the Trout Pond.
“The motion was to investigate the feasibility of adding that to our jurisdiction. I realize the annexation is the ultimate answer, but that is a process, (and) in the meantime, how do you look after an area if you have a problem and that is the town’s infrastructure out there? With policing there is a policy and procedure you have to follow but it seems to me that a letter of understanding could be taken between the town and the M.D. without getting through the whole Police Act as an interim because we are annexing and it will go through,” he said.
With the best option being annexation of the land, Town of Taber CAO Cory Armfelt has explained to the members that the process to annex the land would potentially take a bit of time.
With that in mind, the RCMP will continue to have the policing jurisdiction for all town properties west of Highway 864. Even though they will be the main police agency for that area, the TPS can still be very active.
“This isn’t saying we can’t assist the RCMP by making active patrols. It’s not to say we can’t respond if requested by the RCMP to that area if an incident occurs that they aren’t able to respond to. It comes down to who has jurisdiction and who doesn’t and the RCMP are the police service with jurisdiction. We have had discussions with the detachment commander and he has advised me that they are willing to continue to police the location to the same service the rest of the communities within their dispatch get,” stated Abela.
One thought by Coun. Strojwas was to write a letter to the RCMP and M.D. of Taber expressing their desire for the TPS to become the jurisdictional police agency for the areas.
Abela though had already spoken with the RCMP about the possibility of taking over the properties west of Highway 864.
“I broached that with the detachment commander (Gord Yetman) as a possible solution and he has taken that up the chain of command. It can be but the ultimate responsibility for policing will still fall on the agency for jurisdiction,” he said.
Abela also touched on the fact that the relationship between the TPS and RCMP is strong so there wasn’t any fear of stepping on each other’s toes.
He also went over the process of what happens when calls come in but the RCMP can’t respond.
“If they were in Enchant and they had a domestic at the Trout Pond, they would ask for dispatch to contact Taber police to respond. We’ve already received permission from the commission to extend our jurisdiction in cases where that type of request is made by the police service jurisdiction,” said Abela.
When TPS does arrive on any scene out of town limits though, follow up on the issue would be done by the police force with jurisdiction.
Strojwas wasn’t particularly concerned with that aspect of the investigations, as he was more worried about TPS visibility at the Trout Pond.
“If the RCMP has to investigate, I don’t think that is the problem. The problem is response time and having the ability to drive down into that area so the public can see that is being policed regularly,” he said.
Abela pointed out that the TPS has been driving into the parking lot on a regular basis, though they hadn’t done foot patrols.
Beyond that though, he highlighted the fact that they didn’t have the necessary equipment and training to do much more than that outside town limits.
“I don’t have the equipment to deal with backcountry patrol, I don’t have any ATV or golf carts, or whatever you’d need to actively respond off that path into the countryside. The RCMP have equipment and training to do that currently,” he added.
With town council presenting their worry about having visible policing in the Trout Pond area, Abela touched on the fact it may have been better to have gone with the annexation first as it would have allowed them right off the bat to be the police service with jurisdiction.
“If we have major infrastructure that we’re worried about with security and policing levels, it may have been a better scenario to have the annexation happen first to allow the policing jurisdictions to be in the corporate limits of the Town of Taber versus asking for it vice-versa,” continued Abela.
Commission representative Wendy Osburne-Campbell inquired about the possibility of hiring a new person to be full-time in charge of surveilling the Trout Pond area. While they want visibility in that area, they weren’t in agreement about hiring a brand new person to be there all the time.
“I understand what you are saying but you don’t need someone down there 24/7,” said Strojwas.
He did note that there may be a time in the future when all of the development is done where they do need someone full-time.
A motion was made to direct the police commission chair (Ken Holst) to write a letter that includes all information about the M.D. and RCMP, in regard to Trout Pond, back to town council. The motion was approved unanimously. Commission representatives John MacDonald and David McLean were absent.