Alberta highway patrol officers to have expanded powers starting July 1
Goal is to keep more RCMP members free for higher priority calls and investigations
Highway patrol sheriffs in Alberta are getting more authority to investigate traffic-related offences, including impaired driving and criminal offences they come across in the course of their duties.
Starting July 1, around 260 sheriffs will have new powers as part of the expanding Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response initiative.
"Giving highway patrol sheriffs the authority to handle more incidents on provincial highways means the RCMP has more officers on patrol and available to respond to higher-priority criminal matters," the province said in a news release Friday.
Kaycee Madu, Alberta's minister of justice and solicitor general, said the change to sheriffs' powers is designed to address "the very real issue of rural crime" in the province.
"We know Albertans have been frustrated with response times in rural areas, and we are committed to making sure they feel safe and protected in their communities," Madu said in the news release.
"More boots on the ground means authorities can respond more quickly when Albertans need them. It will also deter crime and make our highways and communities safer."
The RAPID Response initiative started in April. The roles of fish and wildlife officers were expanded so they can help RCMP in emergencies.
The government is consulting with First Nations and Métis leaders to gauge interest before expanding the program to their communities.