New training centre for Sask. Highway Patrol to include firing range, hand-to-hand combat
'Sounds like a great idea' to Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities
A year after its newly-armed officers hit the road, the Saskatchewan Highway Patrol (SHP) service is planning the opening of a centralized facility in Regina where members can be further trained on firearms and hand-to-hand combat.
The Saskatchewan government recently asked companies to bid on a contract to redesign an existing Park Street building so that it can host a training centre, including a 630-square-metre firing range.
The dedicated new centre, expected to open next year, would replace a hodgepodge of public and private sites previously used to train officers.
"There is no centralized location where SHP training takes place," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure said Tuesday. "That is why we are seeking a location to centralize our head office, a year-round tactical shooting area, and training area for hand-to-hand defence tactics."
Not a single shot fired in patrol's first year
Highway patrol officers are part of the province's larger Protection and Response Team, launched in 2017 in the wake of concerns about rising rural crime across Saskatchewan.
As part of that launch, the commercial vehicle enforcement division was renamed the Saskatchewan Highway Patrol.
According to the government, 40 former vehicle enforcement officers under that new banner began carrying firearms and took on expanded duties, including:
- Responding to 911 calls.
- Investigating impaired drivers.
- Enforcing speed limits.
- Responding to accidents.
- Inspecting the welfare of livestock being transported
- Taking action when someone is found committing an offence.
The ministry spokesperson said patrol members already have experience and training in law enforcement but still require re-certification and retraining.
"[A firing range] will provide officers one facility where they can complete re-certification training in the use of firearms," the spokesperson said, adding that "firing ranges typically only allow for lane shooting, not tactical moving and shooting or cross-lane shooting."
Not a single shot has been fired by an on-duty highway patrol officer since the renamed division's launch on July 1, 2018, according to the ministry.
The new training centre will be available to other groups, including conservation officers, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, corrections workers, municipal police forces and the RMCP.
'Sounds like a great idea'
Ray Orb, the president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities — which has previously called for more patrolling of rural areas — welcomed the new facility.
"It sounds like a great idea," he said. "The highway patrol officers are important, especially to rural Saskatchewan. These officers need specialized training because they do enforce elements of the Criminal Code."
In the wake of the Gerald Stanley trial — which touched off concerns about rural crime in Saskatchewan — residents complained that police response to incidents was too slow, with some residents saying they felt forced to take matters in their own hands.
Orb said that since the launch of the Protection and Response Team, he's heard fewer complaints about response times.
"So we're thinking that the response times have actually lessened," Orb said.
When the province first announced plans for the Protection and Response team, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said arming former vehicle enforcement officers was "excessive" and would not help relations between officers and Indigenous people.
"More authorities with more guns means more Indigenous people in jail," said former FSIN vice-chief Heather Bear at the time.
with files from Alicia Bridges