The Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act, 2024, as announced by the province is meant to set up a new organization that would work alongside police services across the province.

"Officers in the new agency would take on responsibility for police-like functions currently carried out by the Alberta Sheriffs," this according to a provincial news release. "The new agency would be operationally independent from the government, as all Alberta’s police services are now."

According to the government, the changes would, 'underpin the government’s ongoing work to strengthen the current policing model. The new, independent police agency will have the authority and jurisdiction to support the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), municipal police services and First Nations police services in Alberta.'

However, Mike Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, underscored that the amendment is not meant to create a provincial police service in replace of the RCMP.

"Our aim here is to bring the police-like functions that the Alberta Sheriffs have taken on over time, under the same kind of legislative framework and civilian oversight as Alberta's police services. The role of the sheriffs' branch has changed incrementally over the years, as the public safety needs and expectations of the community in Alberta have changed," he said.

Ellis said that the amendments will ensure that these police-like functions will be aligned with the legislation governing policing and are carried out by an independent agency that falls squarely under that legislation.

"This legislation will create a civilian oversight board for the independent policing agency, providing a similar kind of governance that exists for municipal and First Nations Police Services. The civilian oversight board will also ensure that just like every police service in Alberta, the new agency will conduct day-to-day operations independently from the government with no direct involvement from elected officials," Ellis added.

According to the province, Alberta Sheriffs expanded duties include fugitive apprehension, surveillance and the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response, which gave the Sheriff Highway Patrol added authority to investigate impaired driving and other criminal offences in July 2021.

Despite the Public Safety Minister saying that the legislation isn't meant to create a provincial police service, Irfan Sabir, Alberta NDP Critic for Justice and Public Safety, was quick to level criticism at the announcement.

"This is yet another broken promise from Danielle Smith. The Premier said before the election they would not pursue a provincial police force. She said in May during the last campaign she wouldn’t bring in a police force. In August of last year, she removed it from the Justice Minister’s mandate letter. And yet, here we are, with legislation creating Independent Agency Police Services."

Sabir added that the RCMP has a contract in place until 2032 and that a provincial police force would be very costly.

"An Alberta police force would be extremely costly for Albertans. Municipalities made it loud and clear they don’t want it, Albertans don’t want it, but Danielle Smith, yet again, doesn’t listen."

However, Ellis also announced that the new agency is only a portion of the Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act, of 2024. The legislation also proposes a provincial ankle bracelet monitoring program.

"Under the proposed Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act, 2024, individuals subject to a court-ordered electronic monitoring condition would be required to wear a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device on their ankle. This device would be monitored 24/7 by a centralized monitoring unit within Alberta Correctional Services," the province stated.

Currently, people in Alberta who are subject to provincial community-based court conditions and bail supervision are monitored by staff within Correctional Services, primarily within regular business hours.

"Once operational, the Alberta ankle bracelet program would provide more supervision of repeat offenders and those on bail who require around-the-clock monitoring as a condition of their community supervision. This program would also align Alberta with jurisdictions across Canada running similar programs."

The province added that the government allocated $5.25 million in funding for electronic monitoring through last year’s budget. Of that funding, $2.8 million will cover implementation costs for this 2024-25 fiscal year, with the full funding of $5.25 million to begin in the 2025-26 fiscal year.

The provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the Yukon operate electronic monitoring programs that use ankle bracelet technologies, though the technologies differ. 

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