Hickie defends police board plan after criticism from Dionne

Mayoral candidate Darryl Hickie defended his plan to step in as chair of the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners should he be elected on Nov. 9.

Incumbent mayor Greg Dionne called Hickie’s proposal “a dangerous road to go down” during an interview on Thursday. Dionne also said he was proud of the current police board model, and vowed to leave it unchanged if re-elected.

On Friday, Hickie said there’s no doubt cities across Canada are appointing more and more civilians as police board chairs. However, he added that Prince Albert was in “a very dire situation” due to its rising crime rate, and said the current board was struggling to solve the problem.

“I still think the cross-section of a people-based board is still important for sure, but I just think that like everything else we’re seeing in Prince Albert, it’s time for a change,” Hickie said. “The board tried, but I look forward to a new board of people who put their names forward to volunteer.”

Hickie also said it was “a bit rich” for Dionne to criticize him for hand-picking individuals to sit on the police board, since there was plenty of controversy around the current board’s appointment in December 2018.

At the time, Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha criticized the appointments as “a substantial breach of policy, procedure and applicable bylaws.” His biggest concern was the lack of presentations on the three new civilian nominees. He also didn’t like how the City held a press conference announcing the new appointees before they were formally approved by council.

Botha voted against the appointment, as did then Ward 7 councillor and current mayoral candidate Dennis Nowoselsky, who claimed other strong candidates were not being given a fair hearing.

After the meeting, Dionne told reporters they held a press conference because the names were already public. He also denied that council failed to follow procedure.

“As I said in the press conference when I introduced the board, there were still two more steps,” Dionne said at the time. “One is tonight. Now that’s done.”

Hickie added that his background as a police officer and in provincial governance made him an ideal candidate to take over as board chair. He said it would only be temporary, with a civilian board chair returning once Prince Albert’s crime rate was under control.

When asked how long that would take, Hickie said it was difficult to predict a time frame. He said the City needed proper partnerships in place with local Indigenous and community-based organizations, along with healthcare professionals, before he would have an estimate.

“It’s going to take years to fix this because this didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It’s been going on for years and years, so I would like to see incremental change. It won’t happen by snapping your fingers.”

Hickie also pushed back on suggestions that the City look for more funding from the provincial government to reduce crime. He said there are plenty of resources in Prince Albert that haven’t been tapped into, and reiterated the need for local partnerships.

Dionne’s criticisms of Hickie’s platform were one of several the made during an interview on Thursday. The incumbent mayor also criticized plans to hire six more police officers, saying Prince Albert couldn’t afford the extra expense. Even if they could, Dionne said infrastructure and keeping property taxes low were bigger priorities.

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