Detachment Commander Discusses Progress And Change With Councils

RCMP Detachment

Trochu Council and Kneehill County Council were both visited by Three Hills Detachment Commander Sergeant Jamie Day, on March 11th and 12th respectively, to discuss the previous year’s policing progress and discuss any changes for the upcoming year.

At Trochu Council, Day was accompanied by Three Hills Detachment Constable Yolanda Bouzane, and to Kneehill County Council Day was joined by Staff Sergeant Warren Wrights, from Olds, Staff Sergeant Rob Harms, from Drumheller, and Sergeant Greg Tulloch, from Beiseker.

Day reported that crime has once again trended down in the past year and that prolific offenders have been largely driven out of the County. Day gave credit to the public for calling and identifying crime hot spots, and for trusting the RCMP; he noted that especially in rural areas, the RCMP rely on help from the public. He commended his staff who have been working hard. In the past few years, over 200 people have been arrested by the Three Hills Detachment on outstanding warrants in this area, which Day is extremely proud of.

The Three Hills Detachment has a high focus on community engagement. A fundraiser hockey game has been organized for March 23rd by Constable Bouzane, whom Day commended for being very community-minded. The game is Kneehill first responders (Fire, EMS, RCMP, local physicians) vs U18 to fundraise for a new Youth Unlimited Centre coming to Three Hills. Day noted that they hope to make the game an annual event, fundraising for a different local organization each year. The District Officer will be coming out to drop the puck. Many supportive, generous, and encouraging sponsorships and donations already contributed to this community-driven event.

There are trading cards for each Three Hills Detachment member available at the Detachment office and Three Hills town hall, and many have been handed out to kids and seniors as a way to connect and ensure that the community knows the names of their RCMP members. Members also try to have cards on their person when they are out in the community.

The Three Hills RCMP will once again be holding their Youth Academy, from July 22nd to 26th, and because of last year’s success, they anticipate a high number of registrations, potentially even doubling last year’s numbers. Two of last year’s academy graduates have gone on to apply to join the RCMP! Day is grateful for the support and $15K sponsorship from Victim Services to help cover costs. Applicants from Kneehill and Red Deer counties are prioritized, though there have been applications from across southern Alberta. Some exceptions have been made if an applicant is not from the area but has a strong interest in joining the RCMP. Staff Sergeant Wrights, of Olds, noted that his Detachment is hosting their first Youth Academy this summer after seeing how successful the program has been in Three Hills.

Day noted that through everything they do, their goal is to continually engage with the communities they serve and to build trust. He wanted both Trochu and Kneehill Councils to feel free to bring anything to his attention that needs improvement or could use RCMP engagement.

Sergeant Day was also pleased with the success of the Detachment’s social media efforts, with their Facebook page receiving quite a bit of traffic. He has been glad to use it to highlight achievements and to ask for the public’s help.

The Three Hills Detachment is losing Constable Weedmark who is heading to the Yukon in mid-March; Day has requested a replacement. Three Hills is also hiring a Corporal for the first time, and once these vacancies are filled there will be 7 full-time members, plus a part-time reservist who has 25 years of experience with Calgary Police Service. On average, the Three Hills Detachment handles 200-280 calls per month.

Day noted that the Detachment has been and will continue to be focused on providing education, rather than issuing tickets unless they are very deserving or are repeat offenders.

Mental health calls have increased in each of the Detachments serving the County, with no sign of trending down. Each department mentioned the Regional Police and Crisis Teams (RPACT) program that will hopefully be coming to Drumheller shortly. RPACT pairs an RCMP officer and an AHS mental health therapist or psych nurse who together respond to serious mental health calls. Often these calls are medical but also dangerous; as RCMP are not mental health experts, RPACT is a huge benefit to a community and by involving AHS it can ensure that patients get referrals for further medical help to not get lost in the system. As well, mental health calls with Form 10 apprehension means an officer is sitting with a patient at a larger centre’s hospital for up to 10 hours—it is a huge drain on resources. Day noted that Three Hills receives as many or more mental health calls as Chestermere which is a much larger area and Three Hills has a much smaller department. Sergeant Wrights, of Olds, noted that not a day goes by without a mental health call at his Detachment, and this was not the case a decade ago.

Cochrane is the closest detachment with an RPACT team but they serve nine detachments; a huge area to support. Drumheller has been slated to receive an RPACT team and this team would serve all areas surrounding Drumheller. Physical resources are already in place and they are just waiting on staffing. Sergeant Wrights noted that Olds would also like an RPACT team and in this way could serve Kneehill County well, meeting in the middle and serving both sides of the County. Hiring a nurse is the difficult part.

In Trochu, Council asked Sergeant Day whether expanding Three Hills’ Citizens on Patrol program to Trochu would be possible. Councillor Cunningham noted that there’s been interest; Sergeant Day advised him to work with Constable Bouzane, the liaison for the Three Hills group, and they would set a date for a meeting to gauge volunteer interest in Trochu. There is an active group in Three Hills who are also looking for more volunteers to join the program. Otherwise, Council was pleased with the work the Three Hills detachment is doing and had no changes to the RCMP priorities for the coming year. Day reminded that it is a working document and can always be changed if anything comes up.

The Olds detachment serves Torrington, Wimborne, and the west corridor of the County. Sergeant Wrights noted that he has been doing mutual training and emergency management training with Kneehill County, and hosted a great town hall meeting on November 30th in Torrington working on fraud prevention with seniors. The priorities of the Olds detachment have stayed largely the same: crime reduction, community engagement, mental health & family violence, and enhancing road safety. He welcomed any changes that Council would like and noted he would continue to update Deb Grosfield with workshops held by the Olds detachment to place them on the Kneehill County website.

The Drumheller detachment serves the Drumheller Valley and surrounding areas such as Stettler, Wheatland, and Starland County, reporting to ten municipalities. Of their 3,000 annual calls, approximately one-third are in rural areas. They are fully staffed with 15 members. Staff Sergeant Harms notes that he continues to reach out to the public regularly and has held a town hall meeting in Carbon in the past year, with County staff. They also held town hall meetings in nearby Rosebud and Morrin which drew in people from Kneehill County. Their 2024 priorities remain largely the same after surveying their residents: crime reduction, reduced drug abuse, enhanced road safety, and community engagement. The Drumheller detachment has seen a 25% reduction in rural property crime, a 63% decrease in break & enters, and a 52% decrease in motor vehicle theft, and welcomes Council’s input to anything needing improvement.

Sergeant Greg Tulloch shared that the Beiseker detachment has seen some big changes for the better in the past few years. Beiseker became part of the Airdrie detachment during Covid, giving Beiseker more resources and enabling them to provide 24-hour policing which was never a possibility before. Morale has improved as members no longer have to work alone, have immediate backup, are more productive, and enjoy working together. Police visibility in the Acme and Linden areas has improved substantially, making it possible to have RCMP patrolling these areas during the night hours. There are 19 members at the Airdrie/Beiseker detachment, and Sergeant Tulloch is responsible for all of the rural areas.

Kneehill Council wondered if the detachments in the County can cross jurisdictional lines and the RCMP responded that especially for a high-risk call, the closest member attends regardless of borders; they aren’t only restricted to their area.

The County Council also wondered whether increased police funding is making a difference within Kneehill County, especially in terms of staffing. Three Hills is receiving an additional member with the Corporal position, and there is a relief unit that will serve all of southern Alberta which will be based in Beiseker. Most of the additional resources are heading to the southern parts of the Province, but it is based on need and this area is fully staffed. It was noted that the RCMP is amid aggressive recruiting across the Province and that staffing is better across the board than it has been.

Both Councils greatly appreciated hearing from the RCMP, appreciate the work they are doing, and noted that if there’s anything the Town of Trochu or Kneehill County can do to help, please let them know.