M.D. Peace Officers do not currently have the authority to deploy shotguns while on patrol and Reeve. Greg Sawchuk says the council will require more information before arming their officers with shotguns.
Shotguns would be used by Peace Officers if granted to euthanize injured wildlife, and not for protection or arrests. It was proposed by the administration on July 14, that the approval of a firearms program for the M.D. should be considered.
Reeve Sawchuk says that the “Council wants more information before moving forward” with plans to arm Peace Officers. However, there are benefits of arming the Peace Officers administration says, one being freeing up some time for the RCMP.
The Bonnyville RCMP were dispatched to 238 animal collisions in the 2020 calendar year. Unfortunately, they have no way of tracking how often animals struck by vehicles had to be dispatched by their officers.
The Solicitor General does not track shotgun use for this purpose so data from other Peace Officer agencies is not readily available. Anecdotal estimates suggest that if 15 per cent of animal strikes required a police response to dispatch the animal, approximately 30-50 animals would have been dispatched by Bonnyville Detachment in 2020, with similar data expected for Cold Lake Detachment. Police would have to attend that scene and break away from other duties to complete this task in a timely manner.
“Often the public is still on scene when the injured animal is dispatched, and if the wait is too long there could be public criticism for the
delay. Taking on the responsibility of assisting the RCMP in this manner would benefit them from a time-management standpoint, demonstrate to the public that we are a collaborative agency, and minimize the trauma suffered by injured wildlife,” the M.D. of Bonnyville stated.
There is always a risk whenever firearms are deployed that something could go wrong. Although very infrequent, firearms do malfunction which could pose a threat to M.D. Peace Officers. The shotguns currently owned by the MD’s Public Safety Department are 15-years-old and haven’t been regularly serviced.
“We enter a whole new world of liability when we carry firearms and the general use of firearms in the public,” CAO Al Hoggan said in the July 14 council meeting.
There are also significant training requirements necessary when deploying firearms, and annual qualifications that would have to be
realized by those officers authorized to utilize shotguns while on shift. Additionally, equipment would need to be purchased in order to maintain a viable firearms program.
Year one of this upgrade would see the M.D. spending approximately $20,500 to outfit all patrol vehicles with trunk mounts, certify all members with the necessary credentials (PAL/qualifications), ammunition, ancillary tools (cleaning supplies), and miscellaneous expenses.
Subsequent years would require approximately $4,000 per annum to maintain the program. Funds would need to be allocated from the 2022 Budget if it were Council’s intention to proceed and accept the liability of Peace Officers carrying shotguns.