The Chestermere RCMP requested to purchase a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) and drone to assist in community policing initiatives, at the Dec. 20 city council meeting.
With the launch of the city’s new off-highway vehicle (OHV) pilot program allowing residents to operate their recreational vehicles on the lake ice and city roadways, the Chestermere RCMP is requesting to purchase a UTV.
“The city consists mostly of residential and commercial properties. Its largest feature is Chestermere Lake. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the lake, beaches, parks and trail systems which extend for kilometres,” Chestermere RCMP Sgt. Sukh Randhawa said. “The request for a UTV will assist in adequately serving the community needs in the areas where a police vehicle cannot access, and work in conjunction with the new bylaw.”
Randhawa brought forward two UTV options for councils’ consideration, a Can-Am Defender PRO Limited HD10 estimating at about $37,500 that would allow two officers in the vehicle and provide an area for essentials in the event of an emergency.
The second UTV option presented was the Can-Am Defender MAX Limited HD10 estimated at about $47,500, which allows two officers, room for two apprehended individuals, and additional space for equipment such as a stretcher.
“We’re leaning more towards option two. Having a two-seater and a prisoner in between just doesn’t work,” Randhawa said. “We would like to have a six-seater, because then we can have two members patrolling and a prisoner. If there’s an injury then we can also transport someone and put a small stretcher in it.”
There are currently 21 RCMP member positions, and 18 positions are expected to patrol the lake, and roadways utilizing OHVs.
All 18 positions must be trained to operate the UTV, which will be offered by the RCMP or an outside approved agency, Randhawa explained.
To accompany the UTVs, the Chestermere RCMP is also requesting to purchase a remotely piloted aircraft system or a drone.
The Chestermere RCMP’s division currently has about 25 active drones of various sizes and capabilities, however, is in the process of acquiring more with high-end thermal and zoom camera capabilities.
“Given the high density of the City of Chestermere as well as the large body of water that has become very popular in recent years, having a drone unit at the disposal of the RCMP officers would be an added asset in assisting tracking suspects where a police officer may not be able to go or reach safely,” Randhawa said.
The drone would give officers the ability to track suspects who are fleeing from a crime scene, until members can apprehend them, lowering the risk to the public and officers.
Drones are often used to track stolen vehicles through neighbourhoods when a police car can’t. Once the vehicle is stopped, the drone can track the driver and guide responding officers to the suspects’ location, instead of using a helicopter, assist in locating missing children, and monitor safety on and around the lake, Randhawa explained.
Drones can also be used to help other units such as Police Dog Services, or the General Investigative Section.
“It will allow the RCMP officers to be able to provide a safer community to the residence of Chestermere,” Randhawa said. “Drones have been used in many different situations including locating missing persons, containing a crime scene, and locating suspects hiding in the wooded areas.”
To operate a drone, officers must complete the RCMP ground school lessons, pass a Transport Canada exam, and complete a flight review approved by Transport Canada.
“It is a very handy tool and used extensively. It gives a bird’s eye view and helps officers a lot in terms of planning very quickly where we want to put our resources,” Randhawa said.
The RCMP estimate the drone would cost about $22,000, with an additional $2,000 every year for maintenance, repairs, and extended warranty.
“Both are equally important to policing functions, they can also assist each other in operations,” Randhawa said.
City Councillor Stephen Hanley explained to councillors that the RCMP will have the authority to purchase the UTV and drone once the capital budget is approved.
“This is for information. This is a budgeted item, it’s in the 2023 budget, and needs to be debated in the 2023 budget,” Legislative Advisor Jerry Gautreau said.
Originally, when City Councillor Blaine Funk reviewed the RCMP’s presentation, he didn’t see a lot of value in approving the purchase of the UTV.
“We’re in a position where we’ve allowed recreation in the city, and the use of UTVs within the city, I support police having a UTV to be able to interact with the public at the same level,” Funk said.
City Councillor Ritesh Narayan supported the RCMP having both the UTV and drone to assist them in providing community safety.
“The drone pinpoints where the person of interest is, and the UTV helps the officers get there, especially if they are in remote places,” Narayan said. “They both complement each other and need both to work hand-in-hand.”