AUPE seeks delay of RAPID Response force as COVID variants threaten
EDMONTON – The UCP government is putting Albertans at risk by rushing ahead with training for the RAPID rural crime project at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“On one hand, the government tells us to avoid travelling and not to gather in groups in order to stop the spread of this killer virus,” says Mike Dempsey, vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 90,000 workers. “Then the government orders some of our members to travel all over the province to get trained in large groups in the use of tactics and carbines,” says Dempsey. “This contradiction makes no sense.”
AUPE is calling on the government to delay training and the introduction of the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response team until after the pandemic is over.
About 115 Fish and Wildlife officers who belong to AUPE are due to begin training next week so they can join the RAPID force and respond to police emergencies normally handled by the RCMP, including homicides, shootings and domestic violence. About 300 more AUPE members who work as Sheriff Highway Patrol officers are expected to be added to the RAPID unit later.
“COVID-19 cases are surging in rural areas and still high in major urban centres and yet the government is asking our members to travel from all over the province to train at the Rexall Centre in Edmonton and at a training facility in Hinton,” says Dempsey.
“The greater threat to Albertans right now is from the pandemic, especially with the new fast-spreading variants having been found here. The government needs to focus on the pandemic,” he says.
The RCMP reported that rural crime rates started to drop in 2019 after the government initiated a seven-point plan to tackle the issue. Property crime went down 9.8 per cent, with 480 fewer homes broken into, nearly 3,500 fewer thefts and more than 1,200 fewer vehicle thefts.
“There are other ways to tackle rural crime without spreading COVID-19. The best way to keep Albertans safe is to postpone all travel or group exercises that are not essential,” says Dempsey.
Mike Dempsey is available for comment.
For more information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, 403-831-4394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.