Alberta pours $100 million into police database

The Government of Alberta will spend $100 million over the next five years on a province-wide IT project that will include a centralized crime database for the region’s police service agencies and the RCMP.

Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security Harvey Cenaiko made the announcement Monday. The money for the project will come out of an $8.7 billion surplus from the province’s 2005 budget. The government could not confirm at press time when it will send out an RFP for the project. The first phase will involve meetings between the Solicitor General’s office and staff at municipal police services and the RCMP.

The database, which will comprise two-thirds of the project and cost $66 million, will allow police officers from municipal police agencies and the RCMP to share information for the first time. The government did not provide any further details on what the remainder of the project will entail other than to say it will involve upgrades to current IT infrastructure.

At present, municipal police forces are able to query each other’s databases but not the RCMP’s. Speaking on behalf of Minister Cenaiko, who was not available for interviews Tuesday, department spokesperson Christine Wronko said not all law enforcement agencies currently use the same systems.

“The intention of this new system is that if a police officer pulls over a suspect in Medicine Hat, they could type in some information to see if they’re wanted in another jurisdiction in Alberta for other crimes,” she said.

The multi-million dollar project stemmed from a recommendation that came out of a 2000 Member of Legislation Assembly (MLA) Policing Review Committee Report and is a priority of the Solicitor General’s office, added Wronko.

Inspector Derek Curtis with the Calgary Police Service said the new database will allow officers to follow suspects more easily.

“Much like the criminals we chase who don’t observe borders,” said Curtis, “we won’t have borders as far as our information sharing goes.”

In the Paul Bernardo case, for example, three different police officers from three different jurisdictions in Ontario were unable to talk to one another as if they were in different countries, said Wronko, citing Cenaiko’s comments on Monday.

“We don’t want to see that happen in Alberta,” said Wronko. “We want to see police officers from North, West, East and South talking to each other.”

Dean Parthenis, a spokesman for Edmonton Police Service, said a collaborative approach to fighting crime will improve the officers’ ability to solve cases in a more timely manner.

“Any new initiative that will assist police agencies to potentially solve crimes more quickly or to help the sharing of information between agencies to solve crimes that perhaps would have went unsolved is extremely beneficial,” he said.

Other provinces, such as B.C. and Ontario, have implemented similar systems. Earlier this summer, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police completed the implementation of a system that allows the province’s police agencies to query each other’s databases for information on criminals and predators across jurisdictions. The Ontario government provided $11 million towards that project and another $5 million towards the Major Case Management system, which deals exclusively with murders and sexual assaults.

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