Abbotsford ERT officers surround a house in the Townline Hill area in west Abbotsford in October, 2019. Patrick Penner/Abbotsford News

Abbotsford ERT officers surround a house in the Townline Hill area in west Abbotsford in October, 2019. Patrick Penner/Abbotsford News

Abbotsford Police Department loses Emergency Response Team, joins regional force

Department wanted to keep local team, but unable to sustain nationally accepted standards

The Abbotsford Police Department no longer has its own Emergency Response Team (ERT), and now shares resources with a combined regional unit.

As of April 4, emergency calls requiring a heavily armoured police response are handled by the Lower Mainland’s Integrated Emergency Response Team (IERT).

“When you lose your speciality in it … (it’s) unfortunate,” said Sgt. Judy Bird, media officer for the Abbotsford Police Department (APD). “There’s a lot of boxes that need to be ticked for us to maintain our emergency response team, and we weren’t able to do that.”

ERTs attend police calls where the possibility of firearms and other extreme dangers exist. Officers in these units are highly trained and specialized experts in weapons and tactics.

The department wanted to be able to keep its local team, but were unable to secure the training necessary to maintain nationally accepted standards after conducting a sustainability assessment, according to Deputy Chief Const. Crosby Jones.

Four to six of the 13 members of Abbotsford’s ERT team will be joining the integrated team, which is a combination of municipal, transit and RCMP resources, Jones said. The remaining officers will be reassigned to other units.

He said there will be no change in operations or service delivery, and there will be some cost savings as IERT is given federal and provincial funding.

“IERT is a fully mission capable team that will provide full coverage to Abbotsford,” Jones said.

Aside from the Vancouver Police Department, the APD was the only force in the Lower Mainland to not already be joined with the IERT.

The change is the latest integration into shared regional forces, with earlier examples being the Integrated Traffic Collision Unit, the Lower Mainland Integrated Police Dog Service Unit and the Air One helicopter.

Part of the reason behind the resource sharing is several of the APD’s critical incident commanders (which are a requirement for ERTs) are at a higher rank and planning retirement, Bird said.

“That would mean in a very quick turn around where we would have to find more critical incident commanders, which we don’t have.”

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