Sask. launches $50M policing branch combining provincial peace officers

Saskatchewan launched a new branch of operations that would combine officers from conservation, highway, prisoner transport and others under one banner.

Branch will be composed of about 450 employees

The Saskatchewan Highway Patrol is one of several enforcement agencies now a part of a provincial policing branch introduced by the Saskatchewan government on Friday. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan launches the Provincial Protective Services (PPS) Branch on Friday, combining peace officers from a range of different entities into one organization.

The branch creation cost about $50.7 million, according to the most recent provincial budget, as part of the province's spending to promote innovative police practices.

Christine Tell, Saskatchewan's corrections, policing and public safety minister, said in a news release that the transition to one major organization is a major step in the safety and security of people in the province.

"A tremendous amount of work has gone into unifying these separate agencies into a single organization over the last six months," Tell wrote.

The branch will unite officers from: 

Between a host of officers and staff, it will consist of about 450 employees.

Noel Busse, executive director of communications for the Saskatchewan ministry of corrections, policing and public safety, says the unity of the enforcement organizations will allow them to work more effectively with each other and other police services. It will also allow more consistent policies and training.

"There may be scenarios where these agencies are able to support police services but not meant to be a replacement for police services," he said.

Asked why the agencies were brought together, he said there were instances in the past where "it was felt that it would have been nice to have these agencies further integrated." 

In the release, Saskatchewan said RCMP officers would be relieved of their prisoner transport responsibilities and will be taken over by officers from the PPS branch.

In a news release from November 2021, the province said the change would "address operational gaps and jurisdictional issues that result from having provincial enforcement agencies with separate command structures."

Rural crime an issue

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the provincial Opposition said there are concerns about rural crime that need to be addressed. 

"Whether this consolidation will result in faster response times in rural areas remains to be seen, and we will continue to monitor how this affects staffing, recruitment and retention of RCMP officers along with service delivery," it said.

"The province has yet to make the case as to why the government needs to take control of the officers that currently work within Wascana Park under the Provincial Capital Commission. This, along with the government's Bill 70, is another example of this government wanting to take control over policing services which should remain independent."

The provincial government does not expect the shift to a unified branch will affect service delivery from any of the organizations. 

It also said there wouldn't be any "immediate changes" to the logos, uniforms or insignias from any of the enforcement agencies involved.