Decision is a betrayal of citizens and officers
EDMONTON – The Alberta government is backtracking on its plan to tackle rural crime, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“The Alberta government assured citizens it was taking rural crime seriously and made a great show of creating the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID Response) program, but it is now quietly cutting that force,” says Sandra Azocar, vice-president of AUPE, which represents 95,000 members including peace officers who have been assigned to RAPID.
“We have been informed that 10 Fish and Wildlife Officers originally assigned to RAPID are now being dropped. This comes after a great deal of money was spent training and equipping these officers to respond to police emergencies,” says Azocar.
“Our members are wondering if these are just the first cuts or if the RAPID program will be reduced even more. We see no reason for this, especially after the Justice and Solicitor General department got a $129-million or 9.6 per-cent boost in Budget 2022.”
AUPE members who work as Fish and Wildlife officers were assigned to the RAPID Response program by the government in an effort to respond in a timely manner to emergency calls traditionally handled by the RCMP. These officers are expected to attend life-and-death situations including home invasions, assaults, robberies and school shootings as either a first or back-up responder.
Millions of dollars were spent on training and equipping these officers with new carbine rifles, ammunition, body armour and secure communications equipment. Officers were given no choice about participating and had to pass enhanced security clearance, including deep dives into their personal lives as part of the screening process.
“These members have been doing their part to keep Albertans safe since the inception of RAPID on April 1, 2021. To be dropped from the program now, without reason or justification, is not only a betrayal to them, but to all Albertans who were promised better protection,” says Azocar.
“The current public inquiry into the mass shooting tragedy that occurred in rural Nova Scotia in April 2020, reminds all Albertans of the importance of maintaining trained and equipped law-enforcement officers available to be called upon to respond to such emergency situations,” she says.
“Albertans need to ask the question: Can this government be trusted to keep its word and keep Albertans safe?”