Duties to fulfill
By Brendan Cox
By Brendan Cox
1032 words – MR
DUTIES TO FULFILL
Unique agency keeps Alberta communities resilient
by Brendan Cox
The Alberta Sheriffs Branch occupies a unique position in Canadian law enforcement. Every day, members keep communities safe and resilient by performing a wide and complex range of duties.
Employed directly by the Alberta Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General, duties include transporting offenders between correctional facilities and courts, court house security, provincial highway traffic enforcement and providing security for the premier and other cabinet ministers.
Members also conduct covert surveillance, tackle drug houses and help protect the province’s critical infrastructure. It’s an eclectic mix that helps the branch form strong relationships with its partners, enabling it to take a seat at the top table of Alberta’s law enforcement system.
“We provide world class services for Albertans in a province that continues to grow rapidly,” said Chief Sheriff Lee Newton. “I’m very proud of the work the whole branch does – both on the frontline and behind the scenes – to help provide safe communities for Albertans. Officers and support staff exude professionalism and dedication and are ambassadors for the Government of Alberta. The sheer variety of what we do is staggering and makes us a truly unique peace officer program in Canada.”
With a budget of $69 million, the branch has just under 700 officers, managers and support staff.
The Court Security and Prisoner Transport (CSPTS) section is the branch’s largest service, with main hubs in Calgary and Edmonton. CSPTS sheriffs clocked up hundreds of thousands of miles last year ferrying some 5,000 inmates and offenders between Alberta courts and correctional facilities.
The service also performs out-of-province escorts to and from Alberta. In 2012, it helped transport Travis Baumgartner – who was subsequently sentenced to life for the University of Alberta Hub Mall killings – from B.C. to Alberta. Further, it assisted provincial and municipal police agencies with public order and special events in their jurisdictions and collected DNA samples under court order.
CSPTS sheriffs are also strategically stationed at Alberta’s 73 courthouses to help prevent violent incidents and maintain order, allowing judges, lawyers, staff and visitors to conduct business in a safe environment. Members completed about 200,000 perimeter security checks last year, ensuring countless weapons, such as knives and guns, did not enter the courts.
The second largest section is Operations and Protection Services, which performs a plethora of tasks, including 24-hour security at the Alberta Legislature Building and grounds and other key government buildings. The Technical Security Unit (TSU) provides specialized security consultation services and coordinates and installs security alarms, cameras and locks for Alberta government ministries, and the Executive Protection Unit (EPU) ensures the premier, lieutenant governor, and if required, members of cabinet and visiting dignitaries, get close protection.
“With events across the world in recent times, we have become even more aware of the need for security measures at government locations,” said Sgt. Major Jean-Louis Delisle. “Every day, often in challenging circumstances, dedicated sheriffs ensure government business can be done in safe and secure surroundings.”
The Operations and Protection Services focuses on road safety. Traffic sheriffs work alongside RCMP partners in 20 integrated traffic units, helping reduce injuries and serious road collisions. Created in 2006, the traffic sheriffs fully integrated with the RCMP in 2010 in what has been a very successful relationship; the two organizations took more than 130,000 enforcement actions in 2015.
“The units reduce high-risk driving behavior,” said Supt. Rick Gardner, who heads traffic operations. “Without their presence, there would be many more instances of serious injury or death on Alberta’s highways.”
A less publicly known service is provided by the Alberta Security and Strategic Intelligence Support Team (ASSIST), also under the Operations and Protection Services umbrella. It is a key source of intelligence regarding threats to the Alberta government and the province’s critical infrastructure. Thanks to its work crucial information flows between law enforcement, national security agencies and the private sector. ASSIST works closely with the Energy Security Unit (ESU), which provides security services to energy sector regulators.
The Sheriffs Operational Communications Centre (SOCC) is a vital component of the branch. It provides provincial radio communications and dispatch for sheriffs, organizes prisoner transport, monitors numerous CCTV and alarm systems at multiple government sites and is the branch’s central CPIC hub.
Sheriffs in the third major section, Investigative Support Services, are seconded and integrated with policing partners in the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) model.
Members help Alberta best use resources in the fight against an increasingly sophisticated criminal network, which often cross borders of law enforcement jurisdictions. They work in the Sheriffs Investigative Support Unit (SISU) to provide investigative surveillance support to police agencies for major and organized crime investigations within Alberta.
They also work in the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Unit (SCAN) performing investigations under the SCAN Act, targeting properties used for illegal activities such as drugs and prostitution.
The fourth and final section is Corporate Security Services (CSS). Established in 2014, this is the newest part of the organisation, and among its range of duties is managing internal and external threats to employees, property and facilities. It leads the development of a strategic framework, with supporting policies and processes, to ensure a comprehensive and consistent level of security for ministry staff. Members deliver security information and training for employees and manage complex clients who may potentially impact the ministry.
When sheriffs are not keeping Alberta’s neighbourhoods safe and resilient, many choose to help their communities. Sheriffs are heavily involved in the Alberta Law Enforcement Torch Run’s fundraising activities for the Special Olympics, raising money by jumping into freezing lakes, camping out on superstore roofs and serving tea and coffee at restaurants across the province.
Many also go in the extra mile in other ways – for example, one traffic sheriff recently helped deliver a baby girl at the side of the road.
“Alberta sheriffs are highly dedicated professionals,” said Newton. “It is a true honour to lead them as the Chief Sheriff as we work with our policing partners to ensure Albertans can live, work and raise families in safe communities.”
Brandan Cox (email@example.com) is a public affairs officer with the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.