Media Release: Alberta’s rural-crime project leaves officers furious
EDMONTON – The UCP government has endangered its own RAPID force rural-crime initiative by angering the officers tasked to run it.
The government has told about 115 Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officers that their classification and pay rates will not be altered to reflect that they are being asked to head into life-threatening situations, including homicides, mass shootings and domestic violence.
“This makes no sense,” says Mike Dempsey, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents about 95,000 workers province-wide, including these Fish and Wildlife officers. “The government is asking these members to become first responders, to attend violent crime scenes that will put them at great risk, but says the extra risk, the extra work and extra training will not result in any changes to their pay.
“The government told our members in November 2019 that staff involved in the RAPID Force initiative would receive wage increase that reflected a significant increase in their roles and responsibilities. Jason Kenney is betraying the very front-line workers he is sending into danger.”
Dempsey adds: “The government has found money to buy extra rifles and body armour, which shows they recognize the increased risk. They have found money for computers, office equipment, training and retrofitting vehicles. But there isn’t a penny for the people doing the dangerous work.”
With no change in classification or pay, officers responding to incidents will be on very different pay scales depending on whether they come from the RCMP, Fish and Wildlife, Alberta Sheriffs or the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch.
For example, the top rate for an RCMP Constable is more than $86,000 per year, but the comparable rank for a Fish and Wildlife officer attending the same dangerous event is about $15,000 less. RCMP corporals and sergeants can earn between about $10,000 and $25,000 more per year than comparable Fish and Wildlife officers. They would also be subject to different benefits, including pensions.
“Our members are dedicated public-service workers and are prepared to do what it takes to protect Albertans, but it’s insulting to ask them to risk their lives without fair compensation,” says Dempsey, an environmental protection and forestry officer with decades of experience working with Fish and Wildlife officers.
The government has said 400 members of Fish and Wildlife, Alberta Sheriffs or the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement could spend up to 15 per cent of their time responding to police emergency calls, but has no answer to who will do the work that these officers leave behind.
“Our members have been overworked and understaffed for years. Now the government is adding more work and expects them to just soak it up,” says Dempsey. “This RAPID plan will rapidly fail unless the government takes it seriously. It seems to be more of a public-relations attempt to tackle dwindling support among voters than a real plan to tackle rural crime.”
Mike Dempsey is available for interviews.
For more information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, 403-831-4394.