$0.00 0 items

No products in the cart.

GPPS announces new team for social disorder

June 20, 2024

By: Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative

The Grande Prairie Police Service (GPPS) now has boots on the ground with a peace officer in the Community Engagement Team (CET).

The peace officer will respond to social disorder in the city, replacing the Public Security Unit (PSU) on May 1. 

“We're able to follow up, provide a much more effective and efficient deployment model when everybody's reporting to one chain of command, we're sharing intelligence information and objectives,” said Dwayne Lakusta, GPPS chief.

Grande Prairie Police Service Chief Dwayne Lakusta. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

The PSU started last year as a pilot project with eight security officers. The city said it would allow police to focus on high-priority areas of public concern and safety, while Lakusta says using peace officers may be more efficient. 

“Peace officers under the Peace Officers Act have more enforcement powers because they have a higher level of training and intervention tools because quite often when we're dealing with the vulnerable population, there's some uncertainty there. 

“I want to make sure that we're going in with the right amount of training, and this will only complement our sworn police officers as we move forward.”

Last week, the first sergeant was deployed for CET, and Lakusta says more are coming. The CET is expected to have about eight peace officers. 

Lakusta said the CET will work seven days a week and be supplemented by two police officers.

The CET will focus on the city's downtown area, but Lakusta said it will be available across the city and will also examine areas such as the trail network.

“Wherever we see concerns that are popping up for a population, (it will) be able to move around and just follow the follow the trends,” said Lakusta.

He said having uniformed officers will help people feel safe downtown and will deter criminal behaviour. He noted that officers will be walking around the area, using bikes through the trail system as well as using their patrol vehicles.

The CET works under the tiered-policing model Lakusta is implementing at the GPPS to ensure the proper resources are sent to the appropriate calls.

“We're able to make those assessments of what's required, what kind of response do we need, do we need a social worker or caseworker, do we need some sort of enforcement, or do we need a sworn police officer to respond and address the issue,” he said.

The CET, along with other units under the GPPS umbrella - including mobile outreach - will be part of that approach. 

The City of Grande Prairie council voted last year to transition to a municipal police service and abandon the contracted RCMP policing model. 

The GPPS is expected to be the police of jurisdiction by 2027; until then, the RCMP will remain the police of jurisdiction. 

“I'm very excited that we're able to launch our first police officers; it just shows the steps that we're taking for the city to move this transition forward,” said Lakusta.

Lakusta said in January that GPPS would likely have about 24 officers hired by the end of the year and not the 41 expected in the city policing transition report.