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Calgary police remains understaffed in new budget, looks for creative ways to cover shortfall
The Calgary Police Service says they need new officers to help combat the rise in crime in the city, but the proposed budget doesn't support the recruiting effort properly.
As Calgary continues to grow, the citizen to officer ratio is widening and that means police are being saddled with more work but not enough resources.
The deputy chief says that the force is understaffed by about 100 police officers and that is having a major impact on morale, which is at an all-time low.
“I would suggest that our hiring efforts need to remain one of our top internal priorities around organizational performance,” said CPS Deputy Chief Paul Cook. “I would suggest that we are down significantly in sworn officers. I think if we were able to staff those positions, those vacancies that are front lines folks and other investigative areas of the service feel every day, I think we would be a much different service as far as capacity and staffing.”
To deal with the backlog of work, the CPS says it is responding to fewer non-emergency calls and coming up with more creative ways to solve problems that don’t require officers to attend in-person. In 2017, police attended to only 60 percent of the over 500,000 primary calls but they still want to improve that statistic.
“We, in the last four year cycle, had to look for ways to maintain the quality that the community was asking for and we had to go through efforts to redeploy members back to front line policing. That’s a continuous effort and commitment that the service will continue in the next four years.”
That doesn’t mean that the CPS won’t be looking at an empty cupboard when it comes to resources over the next while. It’s proposed that $11M will be spent on two new helicopters and $13M is earmarked for new equipment.
“That’s technology that we need to invest in to help with the complexities that our front line folks face or our service face. Take the helicopter for example; the amount of stolen vehicles that our folks face, the dangers that those pose to our community is immense and without those helicopters, safety would be compromised.”
The budget also includes $32.5M for a new district headquarters.
Ideally, Cook says that he would like to see three full classes of recruits in training at any given time to cover for natural attrition of positions.
The CPS says they also want to focus more on women to add to their workforce as just 12 percent of the service is female.
(With files from Mark Villani)