Peace Officers: partner on the R.O.A.D. to supplement public safety
By Vikram KulkarniFeatures Opinion
Calgary’s new slogan, "Be part of the energy," aptly illustrates the city's robust workforce, which contributes to the constant growth in and around the city.
From a security perspective such growth comes with its fair share of demands. The past decade has put heavy pressure on public and private security providers. The demand has outweighed the supply and the government has had to find new ways to address this issue.
The Calgary Police Service (CPS) is the agency of jurisdiction. Over the past decade, a surge in the overall population has placed an increased demand on CPS and subsequently the need for more resources. While reported crime is decreasing, clearance rates have been increasing due to new sources of evidence such as video and image captures from witness cell phones. This translates into more work even though there may actually be less crime. Such changes have made it necessary for CPS to adjust budgets, revise responsibilities and push CPS executives to look for alternative solutions and additional resources. In moving forward, it is vital to understand the involvement and oversight provided by the province’s Ministry of the Solicitor General.
In Alberta, the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Public Security is responsible for ensuring adequate and effective policing services throughout the province. Over the past decade the government undertook a transformative overhaul to meet the increased needs of all Alberta communities with regard to public safety. Report recommendations highlighting improvements in policing efficiency and effectiveness with better, more representative equity in communities were adopted and implemented.
In 2007, the Peace Officer Act came into existence. This established a revised vision for the delivery of policing services in the province. Today, the Public Security Peace Officer program is administered under the auspice of the Alberta Solicitor General and Public Security. All levels of government who employed Special Constables now employ Peace Officers under this enactment.
Peace Officers are given limited powers and authorities under the Peace Officer Act that supplement policing practices and fill the gaps in policing models under the Alberta Law Enforcement Framework. All levels of government, as well as organizations such as Alberta Health Services, post-secondary institutions and city transit services have the option to employ peace officers. An active example would be Calgary Transit Peace Officers. These Peace Officers are appointed with limited powers and authorities to effectively respond to most complaints on the Calgary Transit system and supplement the overall role of CPS in maintaining community safety.
The acronym R.O.A.D. (Requirements, Opportunities, Authorities, Direction) has been used to explain the role and powers of Peace Officers in Alberta with examples from Calgary. The intent is to educate the overall security industry and attract candidates to a career as a Peace Officer.
A Peace Officer just like any other profession has individuals from various backgrounds however, the norm has been to prefer individuals with customer interaction in a field related to the security industry. Some have a military background whereas others come from civilian backgrounds such as loss prevention, hospital security, retail security and experience with armoured cars. With today’s increasing and ever changing demands, employers are looking for diversity within individual experience and most of all, a customer-friendly personality. Peace Officers are preferred to have a level of post-secondary education in criminal justice or a related field with practical hands on experience in the real-work world. An attractive salary awaits candidates who have a minimum of three years work experience in a security related role.
The demand for Peace Officers is steady, especially in urban centres like Calgary where a combination of education and experience is a valuable asset not just as an entrance requirement but also for an opportunity to rise through the ranks. It is in fact even more attractive in rural Alberta where Peace Officers supplement the activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Requirements to become a Peace Officer may vary, depending on the jurisdiction and hiring organization. However, what is mandatory is a clean criminal record, good morals, strong references, and a high level of physical fitness. Peace Officers must complete mandatory training before they can take an oath and carry the badge. The training familiarizes them with their appointments, job responsibilities, the powers they have, and how to utilize those powers safely and most importantly, legally.
Peace officers throughout the province are mandated to wear standardized uniforms to make themselves identifiable to members of the public, although sometimes they may be plainclothes for investigations, in which case they present their provincially issued identification card and badge if they need to be identified. Examples of Peace Officers in Calgary include Transit Officers, Probation Officers, Corrections Officers, Bylaw Enforcement Officers, Parking Authority Officers and Health Authority Peace Officers.
In 2005, an MLA review of the Special Constable Program was conducted which resulted in the creation of a unique model of policing to include Alberta Peace Officers (APO) and Community Peace Officers (CPO) to supplement public safety functions under the auspices of the local police service. In Calgary, the province used a practical approach in allowing for an increase in the number of Peace Officers. This created a strategic distribution of municipal resources to complement public safety functions and offset certain mundane functions performed by the police service.
In 2011, the province introduced the The Alberta Law Enforcement Framework. This is a comprehensive road map outlining government expectations for policing bodies to tailor policing functions to specific skills, knowledge and expertise. Alberta’s public safety responsibilities under the Law Enforcement Framework are a comprehensive overhaul of the practical realities of policing demands. In Calgary, this model has allowed CPS to focus more on police work such as criminal investigations, specialized training and serious crimes. There are more than 3,000 Peace Officers in Alberta and approximately 500 in Calgary alone with a defined structure including duties and responsibilities outlined in their appointments. These numbers are a clear testament of modern developments in law enforcement with a focus on not just WHO but HOW should limited resources be used. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) is also examining alternative service delivery models which will be presented at the CACP summit later this year. However, with such an overhaul misunderstandings among the public are common and need clarity to highlight the infinite potential such advances provide. In Calgary, like many metropolitan cities, a common cause of confusion among the public is the understanding of duties and responsibilities between a Police and Peace Officer.
A Peace Officer is a public official who has limited authorities in maintaining peace and order as compared to a Police Officer who has a wider range of authority. A Peace Officer has a badge and is sworn to uphold the respective agency’s values. Their appointment fulfills a variety of roles and responsibilities relating to law enforcement such as traffic duty, court and prisoner security, commercial vehicle inspections and Bylaw Enforcement. Criminal Code authority derives from section 494-citizen powers of arrest, although the Solicitor General recently approved limited police authority under section 495 for criminal mischief, fraud and theft relating to under $5,000 investigations.
Peace Officers are permitted to carry batons and oleoresin capsicum (OC)/ pepper spray. Some peace officers are allowed to carry firearms with authorization from the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security. Such authorities are only granted where the police agency of jurisdiction approves and formalized interaction protocols are in place. In the commission of their duties, Calgary Transit Peace Officers are allowed to arrest individuals to execute outstanding warrants for bylaw, provincial and criminal code violations according to their Memorandum of Understanding with CPS.
In a world of growing diversity and complexities within law enforcement, the concept of alternative service delivery models such as the addition of Peace Officers has proven effective and continues to contribute to the evolving model of community based policing. CPS believes in this concept and has acknowledged Peace Officers as a growing supplement to public safety in Calgary making it a willing leader and active participant in providing innovative, advanced and practical police services.
Alberta’s Ministry of the Solicitor General and Public Security has successfully transformed the manner in which public security is prioritized and perceived. Ministry officials are committed to set realistic goals and initiatives with a focus on transparency and accountability. Their oversight and direction is a clear testament of innovative leadership, a high level of professionalism in law enforcement along with a coordinated and collaborative approach with partners and stakeholders, resources Albertans support.
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