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22 drivers pick up $300 tickets in distracted driving sting in downtown Red Deer

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News release from Red Deer RCMP

Red Deer RCMP conduct distracted driving operation

Red Deer RCMP conducted a one-day distracted driving traffic operation in downtown Red Deer that resulted in 22 violation tickets issued and three Criminal Code charges.

On July 13, officers of the Downtown Patrol Unit set up at two locations, 49 Ave and 49 St, and 50 Ave and 53 St in the downtown core. Violation tickets were issued for distracted driving, along with one ticket issued for driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

“Distracted driving can have very serious consequences, especially on Red Deer’s busiest roads,” says Cpl Dwayne Hanusich of Red Deer RCMP. “Motorists need to understand that distracted driving will not be tolerated.”

According to statistics from the CAA, distracted driving is one of the largest causes of collisions, injuries and death on Canada’s roads, contributing to 21% of fatal collisions every year. Distracted driving includes using hand-held cell phones, entering information into a GPS unit, reading, personal grooming, and other activities that take a motorist’s attention off the road.

The penalty for distracted driving is a $300 fine and three demerit points. To avoid distracted driving, motorists are encouraged to:

  • Never text or check notifications while driving, even while at a red light
  • Use hands-free or voice-activated devices
  • Don’t groom yourself (i.e. applying make up, flossing)
  • Pull over if you need to attend to a child or pet
  • Keep your eyes on the road
  • Keep two hands on the wheel at all times

The Red Deer RCMP plan to do several more distracted driving operations this summer and fall.

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Justice

RCMP officer, communications official stand by political-interference allegation

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OTTAWA — The two people who made allegations of political meddling in the investigation into a shooting spree in Nova Scotia are standing by their recollections.

Chief Supt. Darren Campbell and former RCMP strategic communications director Lia Scanlan were among the witnesses called to testify at the House of Commons public safety committee Tuesday.

The committee is sorting through conflicting reports about whether RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was under pressure from the federal government to ensure the Mounties released details about the weapons used in the 13-hour-long shooting spree, which left 23 people dead, including the gunman.

A number of Nova Scotia RCMP officials say Lucki scolded them nine days after the killings.

Campbell’s handwritten notes about a meeting on April 28, 2020, say Lucki told them she made a promise to then-public safety minister Bill Blair that information about the firearms would be released in a news conference that day, and that it was connected to upcoming gun legislation.

Lucki has said she did not interfere in the investigation, but was frustrated with the Nova Scotia division over its communication with the public because media were reporting facts before the RCMP released them.

“I called the meeting to express my frustration and disappointment,” she told the committee in July.

Campbell told MPs on the committee Tuesday that Lucki “made me feel as if I was stupid” and as though he didn’t understand the importance of releasing the information.

The RCMP has been under intense scrutiny over its communication with the public and the families of victims during and after the killing spree. A public inquiry underway in Nova Scotia has been tasked with examining that issue, among others related to the shootings and the police response.

Campbell said he couldn’t release the makes and models of the weapons because it would “have a negative impact on the ongoing investigation.”

“There were investigative objectives, which included the investigation of any other individuals who may have assisted (gunman) Gabriel Wortman in any way,” Campbell said.

At the time, the RCMP was working with the FBI and other agencies to figure out how Wortman was able to smuggle weapons from the United States.

Scanlan said she felt Lucki did not care about the risk to the investigation.

No one has ever been charged, in Canada or in the U.S., with helping Wortman obtain or smuggle those firearms.

The committee has also focused attention on whether Lucki ought to have given that weapons inventory to federal government officials in late April.

Documents released through the public inquiry show she shared that inventory with Blair’s office on April 23, explaining that it shouldn’t be shared beyond the minister and prime minister.

But Campbell said he did not think it was appropriate for her to do so.

“From my understanding the direction was fairly clear that (the weapons information) could not be shared outside of the RCMP,” he said.

That direction, according to Campbell and Chief Supt. Chris Leather, who also testified before the committee in July, came from Nova Scotia’s police watchdog, the Serious Incident Response Team, known as SIRT.

SIRT was investigating the police killing of the gunman. Campbell and Leather say the SIRT director told them the weapons inventory could only be released internally due to that probe.

But Pat Curran, who was director of SIRT in April 2020, told The Canadian Press in an email that the gunman’s weapons were not part of the watchdog’s investigation and he did not give direction to the RCMP.

“I did not consider controlling disclosure of the weapon information to be a SIRT issue. Disclosing or not disclosing that information had no bearing on the matters SIRT was investigating,” Curran said.

In their testimony, Blair and Lucki adamantly denied there was any pressure from the federal government on the RCMP commissioner. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia RCMP officials including former assistant commissioner Lee Bergerman have been steadfast in saying Lucki was under pressure and that she expressed that in the meeting on April 28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta promises more officers for rural municipalities with provincial police plan

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CALGARY — The Alberta government continues to make its case for a provincial police force, saying it would add hundreds of front-line officers to small detachments.

The United Conservative Party government outlined its blueprint for more police in rural Alberta on Tuesday. Under the plan, 275 front-line police officers would be added to the 42 smallest detachments.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said as it stands, there is no minimum number of officers at RCMP detachments. He said a made-in-Alberta police force would provide better policing for all regions including improved response times.

“I’m often asked why the government is looking at the idea of a provincial police service and the answer is simple … we have a duty as Alberta’s government to consider whether new and innovative approaches to policing can make our community safer,” Shandro said.

“We can also make access to mental health, addictions, family crisis services, and other specialized police services more accessible to all communities across Alberta.”

Shandro said the proposed model would have 65 to 85 community detachments that would have a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 80 officers working in them.

The plan also includes service-hub detachments with between 48 and 192 officers, as well as three urban detachments to serve larger communities and function as regional headquarters.

The report also outlines how an Alberta Police Service would extend dedicated support to self-administered First Nations police services through its service-hub detachments, making it easier for them to establish and maintain their own forces.

Shandro said the idea of a provincial police force isn’t something new nor should the public be concerned.

“The biggest point I would really like to drive home for all Albertans is both Quebec and Ontario have their own provincial police service and look, their provinces have not collapsed,” he said.

Shandro said the RCMP, as it does in Quebec and Ontario, would continue to exist but focus on federal policing responsibilities as opposed to handing out a speeding ticket in rural Alberta.

“Cyber-terrorism, human trafficking, organized crime would be their core functions rather than concentrating on contract policing,” he said.

“The RCMP, they’re kind of like an FBI but they wear other hats as well but that would be a good analogy.”

The government is deciding its next steps after the release of a third-party analysis last fall of the proposal for an Alberta-run provincial police force to replace RCMP in rural areas and some smaller cities.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers report said it currently costs Alberta about $500 million a year for the RCMP.

Ottawa chips in $170 million under a cost-sharing agreement.

That report said if Alberta decides to go it alone, it would cost about $735 million each year, on top of $366 million in startup costs.

But it said there is potential for more cost-effective law enforcement by using existing human resources and the government’s financial services to save money, and by drafting agreements with municipal forces to share specialized police services, including canine units, air support and tactical squads.

Alberta has not made a decision on whether to proceed but wants to have a transition plan in place if Ottawa decides to end financial support for contract policing.

“I think we have to remember … the federal government has wanted out of that liability since the 1960s and the opportunity in continuing to receive that subsidy quite frankly has a shelf life,” said Shandro.

Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki, the commanding officer of the Alberta RCMP, said his team will be reviewing the government’s policing report.

Zablocki said the RCMP is constantly adjusting its service to meet the demands of Albertans and has always worked closely with the provincial government.

“Our budget and staffing levels are determined by the Government of Alberta, the provincial policing priorities are developed with their oversight approval, and we report on strategic and budget performance measurements on a regular basis,” he said in a release.

“Our employees are skilled police professionals, trained to the highest standard in Canada, based on over a century of rural policing lessons.”

Provincial governments in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are also studying the feasibility of replacing the RCMP.

Earlier this year, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta said it supports keeping the RCMP and opposes the idea of a provincial police force because the government has failed to demonstrate how it would increase service levels in rural areas.

Alberta Municipalities, formerly known as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, was briefed on the plan but said it needed more time to digest the information.

But it outlined some concerns about the costs, whether there has been enough consultations, and that a provincial force should be driven by real public safety needs rather than by politics.

Alberta NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir has concerns as well.

“This is not a blueprint. It’s a boondoggle,” he said.

“The UCP will spend hundreds of millions of dollars just to set up a new police force when what Albertans want is better policing focused on addressing crime and its root causes.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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