CORNWALL, Ontario – At the monthly Cornwall Police Service (CPS) Board Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, CPS Chief Danny Aikman asked the board for four additional officers to supplement vacancies in his frontline force.
The Chief explained to the board that a little over 20 per cent of his frontline force is currently unavailable for work. The reasons range from long term disability, to modified duties, to suspension with pay.
Currently one officer is off on long term disability, three are off on Worker Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, two are absent due to off-duty injury, four are on modified duties and one officer is suspended with pay.
Chief Aikman said that these 11 absent officers are not expected to return to work in the near future. Aikman explained that the officers that are on modified duties have all been diagnosed with Occupational Stress Injuries, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which in his report to the Board, Aikman says is an emerging trend.
“This is not about asking for additional personnel,” he said. “It is about supporting our current staff.”
He explained that this is not the first time that a CPS Chief has asked for additional resources, pointing to a similar situation in 1995 an 2007.
The current shortage is coming at a time where the police are seeing a growing demand for service. Calls for service in 2018 rose by 13 per cent from the year before, and that calls for service for 2019 are currently 11 per cent higher than the previous year.
An additional strain on frontline officers is the increase in mental health calls, the Chief explained that every night shift has at least one of these calls. Often this requires two officers to bring the subject of the call to hospital, and remain at the hospital for an average of an hour and 44 minutes.
“This keeps at least two officers tied up and creates more work for other frontline officers on the same shift,” Aikman said. “So the cycle just continues and continues in terms of the growing workload.”
Aikman explained that if given the permission to hire four additional officers in 2020, that CPS would return to its authorized strength of 89 sworn officers through attrition.
“It is my duty as chief to bring this to the attention of the board,” he said. “It could affect officer safety and public safety.”
The Chief explained however, that due to the time it will take to hire these new officers and train them, overtime for the CPS will exceed 2018’s number of $268,000 and could be as high as $300,000.
“I’m not sure what the police budget will look like in December. I’m a little worried, but this is an issue that cannot be ignored,” said Mayor Bernadette Clement who sits on the CPS Board.
Aikman assured the Board that this was not a problem he would solve by throwing bodies at it, but said that rather he was committed to finding long term strategies to address the issue.
The Board voted unanimously in favour of granting the Chief’s request to hire four additional frontline officers for 2020.