Task force chair Michael Zwaagstra
The Mayor's Task Force on Public Safety in Steinbach wants to know whether residents would prefer a municipal police force instead of RCMP.
City councillor Michael Zwaagstra is the chair. He says, "Our population is growing. We're getting close to the point where we will hit 15,000 people and at that point the cost structure that we have with the RCMP changes, our city share goes up substantially, plus our 20 year contract is coming up for renewal next year. And so, considering that we're looking at all aspects of public safety, along with policing, and because that contract is coming up for renewal and our population is going up, and that's going to affect our cost, we thought it was appropriate at this time to evaluate this question."
Councillor Zwaagstra notes Winkler has a municipal police force and the cost per officer is about the same as what Steinbach pays for RCMP. "What we found in Winkler is that their total policing budget for 2011 is 1.9 million dollars and they have a total of 16 officers. Our budget in Steinbach for 13 officers is about 1.5 million. So you break that down per officer it's almost exactly the same cost which is something we found to be quite interesting. Now, of course, if you go to a city police force, there are initial capital costs that need to be accounted for. But in terms of ongoing operational (costs), Winkler runs their police force for the same cost as RCMP on a per officer basis."
He adds a municipal police service also gives city council more say. Zwaagstra says, "That's one of the advantages of a municipal police force is that you do have more direct control over who the leader is and, of course, how many officers you have and the type of training you choose to provide for them. Those are all things that are directly under the control of the city and that is likely one of the reasons most larger communities tend to have their own police forces."
You can participate in the survey at steinbachonline.com.
Councillor Zwaagstra says the task force wants as much public input as possible on this and other related issues before writing its report later this year.