Plan to move RCMP base from Shellbrook to Ahtahkakoop concerns some

A plan to move the Shellbrook detachment of the RCMP to the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation is generating some concern in the town.
Bob Ernst, on the left, is the reeve of the RM of Shellbrook. He is with George Tomporowski, the mayor of Shellbrook, in front of the current detachment of the RCMP. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

A plan to move the Shellbrook detachment of the RCMP to the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation is generating some concern in the town.

"We think there is a certain amount of criminal activity [in Shellbrook], and we think having a detachment here is a deterrent to that," George Tomporoski, the mayor of Shellbrook told CBC News. "If the detachment moves, certainly the possibility exists that [criminal] activity would increase and that's a concern for us."

They really feel out there [like] we're being abandoned.- Reeve Bob Ernst

Shellbrook is a community of around 1,200 people west of Prince Albert. The Ahtahkakoop reserve, with about 1,000 people, is 45 kilometres further up the road.

The Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation is about 45 kilometres northwest of Shellbrook. (Google)

The reeve of the Rural Municipal of Shellbrook says a detachment move will add more minutes to the response time when someone calls RCMP.

"Our response time out of Shellbrook — for most of our people now — is about 20 minutes, half an hour," Reeve Bob Ernst said. "If the building moves out of here to Ahtahkakoop we're probably looking at close to an hour before we get a response out of there."

Ernst said people in the RM feel that will be a loss of service.

"They really feel out there [like] we're being abandoned," he said.

Small RCMP office for Shellbrook

RCMP told CBC News that the existing detachment building needs to be replaced and they decided to build in Ahtahkakoop, in part, because that is where many of their calls for service originate.

"In 90 per cent of the cases ... [when Shellbrook residents] see the police car leaving Shellbrook, it's to go to Ahtahkakoop," RCMP Supt. Grant St. Germaine said. "Right now as far as routine patrols and the members patrolling around Shellbrook, there's not as much as people would think there is."

St. Germaine said when the detachment is relocated to Ahtahkakoop, the plan includes maintaining a small office in Shellbrook with two or three officers assigned to work from town on weekdays from nine to five.

Currently, Ahtahkakoop has such an office with three officers assigned.

The current size of the Shellbrook detachment is 11 members, with two support staff. In addition to the existing Ahtahkakoop office, the detachment also has an office at Mistawasis with two officers assigned there.

Residents have also asked questions about how the RCMP will assign officers and where members will live. The RCMP said housing on the reserve will be an option for members, but not a requirement.

The new detachment on the reserve will take about three years to build.

With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon


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