The Community Safety Officer (CSO) program has officially started in Portage la Prairie. Director of Public Safety and Fire Chief for the City Brad Bailey says it's new for the entire southern portion of Manitoba. 

"It's been adopted from the same system that was used in the northern communities for Safety Officers. As it rolls out, the citizens of Portage will soon see Public Safety Officers on the streets and patrolling in their cars. The officers are peace officers, so they do have the power to arrest and powers to detain. They can do traffic stops. So, I think it'll be a welcome sight in our community to have officers patrolling the downtown core areas, meeting up with business owners in the business community, hearing any kind of concerns that citizens supporters may have towards public safety, and bring a sense of security downtown and the main core area." 


He notes they're being slowly rolled out, noting they faced some issues in the supply chain for uniforms and vehicles. Bailey adds you'll start seeing them patrolling town with dark cars and blue Community Safety Officer lettering. They've just started their patrols this week, and as equipment arrives, their presence will be ramped up.

"Prior to the start of this, everybody seems to be excited about it," says Bailey. "There seems to be a buzz in town about what they can bring to our city in terms of safety and security. Any feedback I have gotten is of anticipation and excitement to see how the city is trying to address the problems that we know we have. The core and the business community definitely welcomes foot patrols and that visual deterrent to would-be criminal or vandalism toward the businesses." 

Bailey explains the CSOs will work very closely with the RCMP. 

"They're not there to replace the RCMP in any way, shape, or form. Specialized police forces like the RCMP are busy with high-priority calls. Where the CSOs fit in is the low-priority calls the RCMP addresses, but maybe can't address in a really fast timeline. So, they're there to assist the RCMP wherever they can and help take some of the load off of the specialized police forces." 

Director of Public Safety and Fire Chief for the City Brad Bailey and Colin DoyleDirector of Public Safety and Fire Chief for the City Brad Bailey and Councillor Colin Doyle

He says they're starting with an initial complement of four officers, and three have been hired so far. 

"The next training session offered by the province for the officers is in September. So we will, hopefully in the next month or so, have somebody secure in place to start training in September. We want to have four officers on the streets by the end of this year and we'll see what 2025 brings." 

Councillor Colin Doyle adds that, seeing as this is part of the new city budget, he feels allotments were handled very responsibly by the Council. 

"I'm just excited that this new Community Safety Officer program is part of this budget. I think it is much needed in our city and I think this is another layer that people have been looking for a good deterrent in our city."