Steinbach MLA and Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen, announced that a new 24-7 centralized dispatch service for Manitoba conservation officers will enhance officer safety in the field and strengthen environmental enforcement across the province.

“Manitoba’s conservation officers are on the front lines each day protecting both public safety and our province’s valuable natural resources. They often do this work alone in remote areas with limited, if any, cell service,” said Natural Resources and Northern Development Minister Greg Nesbitt. “Having this central and reliable communication system will be a lifeline that ensures their safety as well as the rapid co-ordination of enforcement resources during critical situations and emergencies.”

The Manitoba government has signed a $1.2-million contract with the Brandon Public-Safety Communication Centre, operated by the City of Brandon, to provide 24-7 dispatch for the Manitoba Conservation Officer Service.

The Brandon Public-Safety Communication Centre is well-equipped to provide this essential service provincewide, Nesbitt said, noting the centre currently provides emergency dispatch for seven police agencies and 192 fire departments, as well as Manitoba-based enforcement officers of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

“Our government commends leadership in Brandon for their foresight in establishing this integrated, inter-agency collaboration to provide a valuable service not only to residents of Brandon, but Manitobans in rural communities across our province,” said Goertzen. “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our public safety partners in the Manitoba Conservation Officer Service for their dedication and commitment to Manitobans.”

The addition of a centralized dispatch builds on a previous investment of $380 million made by the Manitoba government in 2018 to replace the province’s FleetNet emergency communications system, Goertzen noted. In addition to improving officer safety, the dispatch will serve as a foundation for improved co-ordination and support for rural policing and emergency services.

The initial contract with the City of Brandon is for a three-year period, with an option for a two-year extension.

“The Public-Safety Communications department of the City of Brandon is excited to be working with Manitoba’s conservation officers,” said Robert Stewart, director of emergency communications, Brandon Public-Safety Communication Centre. “Officer safety is a high priority for our well-trained staff of dispatchers and call-takers, so extending this protection to conservation officers is a natural step for both our organizations.”

Additionally, the Manitoba government is re-establishing a Conservation Officer Service district office in Brandon which will increase officer presence and improve response times to better serve western Manitoba.

The re-establishment of the district office and introduction of dispatch services advance plans by the Manitoba government to revitalize the Conservation Officer Service, a key commitment in the 2022 throne speech, the ministers noted.

In December, a $1.7-million investment supported the purchase of new protective clothing, safety equipment, tactical tools and communications technology, including radios that will readily integrate with the new communication system. Last fall, the Manitoba government signed a $300,000, three-year contract for a dedicated helicopter service to enhance enforcement of illegal night hunting and other unsafe hunting activities.

Additionally, 11 new unmarked patrol vehicles were added to the Conservation Officer Service fleet. These vehicles provide another tool for conservation officers to use as part of operational tactics, ensuring officers are able to continue offering vital resource protection and public safety activities, the ministers added.

To report poachers and human-wildlife interactions, Manitobans can call the Conservation Officer Service TIP line (toll-free) at 1-800-782-0076.