The Mayerthorpe Fallen Four Memorial Society

Box 3700 Mayerthorpe AB T0E 1N0    (780) 786-2033

History of Alberta RCMP

In May 1873, the Parliament of Canada established a central police force, sending 150 recruits west to Manitoba. The new police force acquired the name North-West Mounted Police (NWMP).

In July 1874, the mounted police officers, now 275 strong, marched West, headed for southern Alberta (AB), where American whisky traders were operating among the Aboriginal people.

A permanent post was established at Fort Macleod, AB. Part of the remaining half of the Force was sent to Fort Edmonton and the rest returned east to Fort Ellice, Manitoba, which had been designated as headquarters. The following summer, Fort Calgary on the Bow River in Alberta and Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills were established.

Upon its arrival on the frontier, the NWMP established a series of posts and patrols which protected the Aboriginal peoples from the unscrupulous practices of whisky traders.

Later, when settlers arrived from the east after the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, members of the NWMP were there to greet them. Not only did the Mounties enforce the law to the benefit of all, but they also ensured that essential services were available to sustain the newcomers against the hardships of a frontier existence.

Regular reports from the NWMP included valuable information for Ottawa. During their routine circuits through the region, they were often the only source of aid or information in sparsely populated areas. Consequently, they were important to the process of integrating new immigrants into Canadian society.

Because their mandate included the supervision of civil as well as criminal matters, their broad duties kept the police in touch with nearly every aspect of frontier life.

Fort Calgary, which was briefly named Fort Brisebois after the detachment's commander, was officially renamed in 1876 by RCMP Assistant Commissioner A.G. Irvine in response to a suggestion from Colonel James Macleod. Macleod's family had connections to Calgary (meaning "bay farm") Bay on Scotland's Isle of Mull.

From 1905-16, the RCMP was contracted to police the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The police and ranchers were tied to a mutual interest in the cattle business. Protecting ranchers against cattle theft, illegal branding, and related stock crimes was one of their primary duties. Ranchers were quick to repay this service with unwavering support of the police. Many members of the force became ranchers themselves once they completed their terms of duty.

The Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) signed a contract to police the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905, and were a fundamental feature of the development of Calgary and southern Alberta. The provincial policing contracts terminated in 1917, and the RNWMP was now responsible for federal law enforcement only in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the territories. In 1918, federal enforcement extended to all four western provinces.

Alberta had its own provincial police force, the Alberta Provincial Police, from 1917 to 1932. Many of its members transferred from the RNWMP to the APP. Economic hardships in the late 20s and early 30s forced the province to rethink its policing arrangements and Alberta reverted to RCMP policing services on April 1, 1932 — an arrangement which continues to this day.

In 1920, the organization’s name was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and its duty was to enforce federal legislation. Responsibility for federal law enforcement extended to all provinces and territories.

From 1932-38, the size of the RCMP nearly doubled, to 2,350, as it took over provincial policing in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, as well as Alberta.

Between 1928 and 1950, in addition to their federal duties, the RCMP took on policing contracts in all provinces except Ontario and Quebec, while continuing to provide the only form of police service in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

The RCMP continued to provide policing services in Alberta through the years of the Second World War, and as the organization became more and better equipped with modern police tools and technology and larger in numbers, more detachments opened across the province.

In 1957 the headquarters building for “K” Division (Alberta) was built in Edmonton. It served the organization for many years until its replacement in the late 1990s was built, housing laboratories, pistol range, offices, meeting rooms, fitness facilities and lecture halls.

Today, “K” Division has over 100 detachments throughout Alberta. “K” Division is the home of the RCMP’s only police service dog training facility in Innisfail. There are some 2,600 men and women serving the RCMP in “K” Division today.