Blue Line

Grande Prairie creates first police commission

May 11, 2023  By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

May 11, 2023, Grande Prairie, Alta. – Grande Prairie city council selected the first members of the Grande Prairie Police Commission at last Monday’s regular council meeting.

The city appointed seven members to the commission: Kelly Benning, Timothy Burnham, Donna Koch, Natalia Reiman, Dan Wong and city councillors Kevin O’Toole and Dylan Bressey.

“Today marks a significant step towards establishing a robust, diverse, and independent policing oversight body in Grande Prairie,” said Mayor Jackie Clayton.

Council established the commission in March and began the search for candidates. Seventy-two applications were received between March 30 and April 18.

“I truly appreciate the support from the community and outside of the community in the application process to see 72 qualified candidates apply for this commission,” said Clayton.

The police commission can consist of five to 12 members, and the province could also appoint two members.

With the provincial election underway, Clayton said no appointments will likely be made until after its conclusion.

She said with the seven current members in place, work can begin on training, adding meetings will begin in the “very near future.”

The commission’s first task will be to hire a police chief; applications to the city close May 31.

Mayor Clayton said interviews for the chief of police are expected to begin in July and are on schedule.

“The way things are intended to progress is the chief will come on board first, and then following the chief will be their initial police transition team,” Chris Manuel, city executive director of Emergency Services, said in March.

Police commission members were chosen by a review panel of six members, including the mayor, coun. Mike O’Connor, City Manager Bob Nicolay, a local lawyer, a human resources specialist, and a former chief of police from another municipality.

The selection process was also narrowed using a competency framework of 18 skills, which enabled the review panel to shortlist 11 candidates.

“As part of the assessment process with any recruitment, there were a number of additional steps that were undertaken such as reference checks, personal interviews were conducted with shortlisted individuals and as well as a criminal record check,” said Leona Hanson, city clerk.

The commission will oversee the Grande Prairie Police Service (GPPS) by establishing policies, allocating funds from the city, and appointing officers.

The city established a municipal police service at the March 6 regular council meeting.

The annual budget of the police commission during the transition period is $200,000, according to the city.

Next year will see the first GPPS officers deployed into the community.

– Town & Country News

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