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Hinton’s community peace officer program to be reviewed


December 6, 2021
By Canadian Press / Local Journalism Initiative

Dec. 3, 2021, Hinton, Alta. – Hinton council has moved seven operating project proposals forward for further discussion at draft operating budget meetings Jan. 14 and 15.

One of those proposals, forwarded by Coun. Stuart Taylor, requested a reconfiguration of some bylaw officer and RCMP responsibilities. Hinton currently has one active community peace officer (CPO), and one vacant CPO position.

The number of community peace officers has been discussed and revisited by council several times in the past number of years – while the scope of the CPO program has been framed by both internal needs and external changes.

Prior to 2015, Hinton only had one bylaw officer and a bylaw administrative assistant. After the bylaw officer retired, the Town went from one CPO Level 1 to two. Unlike bylaw officers, CPOs can enforce not just municipal bylaws, but provincial laws as well.

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While the population has stayed relatively the same since 2015, administration said the workload for CPOs has increased significantly. In 2015, Hinton’s CPOs responded to 509 calls for service, compared to 2,183 in 2018, 2,414 in 2019, 3,633 in 2020, and 1,756 in 2021 up to Nov. 24.

“This increase in calls for CPO response is in part due to the rise in legislation as the CPO1 enforces 10 provincial acts and 14 bylaws. Two bylaws, Cannabis and Animal Control, were re-written in 2017/18 and require more manpower hours to enforce than previously required,” stated Heather Waye, Hinton’s strategic services manager.

Additionally, the Bike Program was transferred from the RCMP to Protective Services.

There is more joint FCSS community involvement, where a CPO provides public education and engagement. CPOs also assist Infrastructure Services with moving speed signs around the community and enforcing bylaws like waste management, unsightly properties.

The Planning and Development and Corporate Services Divisions rely on the CPOs to enforce compliance with building permits and business licenses, among other things.

“Further, there have been Peace Officer Program Changes resulting from the Lazenby Fatality Inquiry in 2018 which changed the duties a CPO can do alone; visiting particular citizens or properties require CPO to bring back up,” Waye said.

The Lazenby Fatality Inquiry in 2018 refers to the findings of the public death inquiry of Rod Lazenby, an Alberta peace officer who was killed while responding to an animal complaint in 2012, and the recommendations on how to prevent similar incidents.

The second community peace officer (CPO) position has been vacant since Oct. 1, 2021 and the position is still posted. Administration is actively recruiting and at this point, there is no expected fill date. Coun. Taylor suggested a hiring freeze for the second vacant peace officer position, but that direction was defeated, and the Town hopes to add a second officer as soon as possible.

In July 2019, the Town of Hinton approved a third CPO position for the remainder of the year. Administration requested the third position due to resourcing and capacity issues from imposed increases in service levels, increasing citizen expectations, new safety and training requirements, and new bylaws requiring enforcement. The third CPO position was filled on Sept. 23, 2019. One of the three CPOs resigned on July 26, 2020 and the third position remained vacant until it was eliminated through the 2021 budget process.

After months of operating with just two CPOs again, council said citizens did not find a noticeable decrease in services. Council said removing the position would help save costs, despite it being included in the 2021 draft budget without a tax increase. The protective services manager at the time stated that it’s challenging for two officers to cover all duties.

Coun. Taylor’s operating project proposal regarding RCMP and CPO duties stated that the Town pays $1.8M for RCMP services, which covers 70 per cent of the cost of 22 full-time RCMP Officers on duty in Hinton. Coun. Taylor suggested moving more of the traffic enforcement duties to the RCMP and reducing to one CPO.

Not all of council was in favour of directing RCMP to traffic duty as RCMP officers are needed in incidents around Town where CPOs cannot respond. Admin will present a business case to council in January, outlining options on a reconfiguration of bylaw and RCMP duties.

Proposals will be further discussed on Jan. 14 and 15 in context to the full draft operating budget. Any of the proposals may then be actioned to the Feb. 1, Regular Council Meeting for decision.


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