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The proposed legislation that would help rural communities address safety concerns

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The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) is giving its support to proposed legislation changes that would expand the role of community safety officers.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen met with the AMM regarding proposed amendments to the Police Services Act, which would expand the authority of community safety officers in rural and urban municipalities.

If the legislation is passed, municipalities will be able to operate their own community safety officer programs. It will also allow the safety officer to execute arrest warrants, manage crime scenes, and briefly detain people in certain circumstances.

“We’ve been working at, how do we have layered policing options, so that municipalities can find a way to have other types of enforcement, and then maybe relieve some of the pressure off of the RCMP on more traditional forms of policing,” Goertzen said.

AMM president Kam Blight said that he recognizes that not all municipalities can afford community safety officers, but it’s always valuable to have more options for enforcement.

“Enabling community safety officers to enforce provincial statutes and bylaws can assist police in focusing on other matters, while [community safety officers] can handle less severe incidents that often take up significant police resources and time,” he said.

Goertzen and Municipal Relations Minister Andrew Smith also renewed calls for the federal government to fund the back pay it negotiated for the RCMP. This call comes after the National Police Federation negotiated a pay increase for the RCMP retroactive to 2017, but left municipalities on the hook for a lot of money.

The AMM has been urging the federal government to absorb all retroactive salary costs immediately.

“We’re looking at, with some of the municipalities across Manitoba, that’s $5.1 million that they’re going to have to absorb,” Blight said.

“In some case that’s a five to 10 per cent tax increase just to cover the retroactive costs, never mind the costs going forward of the increased pay and salaries to the RCMP officers.”

Gortzen said the community safety officer bill is expected to pass in this session.

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