South Peace News
The RCMP Police Dog Service may still be return to the High Prairie region, but it is looking more and more likely it may go to Peace River.
High Prairie RCMP S/Sgt. Bryce Tarzwell updated the Town of High Prairie at its meeting Nov. 22 and Big Lakes County council Nov. 23.
“They’re really pushing for it to not come back,” Tarzwell told town council, although he did not disclose who “they” were.
“They’re pushing for Peace River,” he added, saying High Level was more central and easier to access than High Prairie.
“Is there anything we can do?” asked Councillor James Waikle.
“I honestly don’t know,” replied Tarzwell.
“The decision’s been made. They are trying to centralize it more. That means Peace River.
“I won’t sugar-coat it,” he added. “My gut feeling is they will move it to Peace River.”
Tarzwell suggested one reason behind the decision is Peace River may be easier to staff.
“I don’t know why people don’t want to come here.”
Mayor Brian Panasiuk told Tarzwell and new members of council the Town of High Prairie and neighbouring partners went through an extensive lobbying effort to get the dog handler to the High Prairie region years ago. He added it was time to step up efforts again.
“We will not be letting the dog position go that easily,” said Panasiuk.
The first step was to include the matter on the Alberta North Central Alliance’s agenda at a meeting later in the week.
Based at Faust RCMP, police dog Jago was killed in the line of duty June 18, 2021 from a gunshot in a manhunt north of High Prairie. The position has not been filled.
Tarzwell delivered a similar message to Big Lakes County Nov. 23, but said nothing was finalized.
“But my gut feeling is that the RCMP wants to move the Police Dog Service to Peace River because it is more central to the region of High Prairie, High Level, so there would be quicker response to the whole region,” Tarzwell said.
Big Lakes Reeve Robert Nygaard maintains the door has not closed on locating the dog handler in the High Prairie region. Representatives of council met with a K Division RCMP official in one of its special scheduled meetings with ministries and the RCMP during the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention Nov. 7-10.
“He said the dog service position in Faust will remain open,” said Nygaard, who represents the Faust area on council.
However, Nygaard admitted the RCMP plans to move the position to Peace River.
Tarzwell told both councils the High Prairie region has demand for the police dog that was a valuable asset to the drug unit.
“I have spoken to many officers and former dog handlers who say there’s enough work here to have two dog handlers,” Tarzwell told Big Lakes County.
Big Lakes County is urging the RCMP and the provincial government to recruit an RCMP dog handler to the High Prairie region.
At its regular meeting Sept. 28, council approved a briefing document to lobby the RCMP and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to recruit a dog handler based at either the High Prairie RCMP or Faust RCMP.
The dog handler position served the High Prairie region and also communities extending to the Falher-McLennan region to the west, Slave Lake and Desmarais-Wabasca to the east and north to Peace River, Grimshaw, Cadotte Lake and Red Earth Creek.
The position also provided relief for dog units in Grande Prairie and High Level.