Lethbridge’s new Community Peace Officers (CPO) are now hitting downtown streets for their first solo shifts.

The first nine CPO’s have finished up their 22 weeks of in-house training and 16 weeks of field training paired with an experience Lethbridge Police officer.

CPO Raelene Austin says they are all sworn peace officers, who have specific authorities. “We do have some criminal code authorities including theft under, mischief, theft under, warrants. We also can enforce a number of provincial statutes like giving out tickets. We will be out there (in the community) having a presence.”

Lethbridge is the first community in Alberta to be using CPOs in this way, making this unique for the province.

LPS Sergeant Mike Willimson is in charge of the CPO program. He says the province is watching this program closely here. “This is being viewed by the province as a pilot project if you will. There have been some other communities which have contacted me to find out what we’re doing and how they can do this is their communities too.”

Lethbridge Community Peace Officers can be visually distinguished from regular police officers by their uniform. The CPO uniform includes a light grey shirt and navy pants with a grey stripe, while a police uniform is all navy with a red stripe.

In addition to their foot patrol duties downtown, there are two CPO vehicles on the street. Adding CPOs to the frontline to respond to less serious calls will help free up regular officers to focus on more complex investigations.

The LPS will be recruiting for additional CPOs in the near future with training anticipated in the first quarter of 2020.

(With files from Lethbridge Police Service)