Provincial police association calls for changes after reported 18-year low in police presence per capita
The recently-released data reveals that the total number of sworn police officers across the country has fallen to its lowest level since 2009. However, when adjusted to reflect population changes, the 2018 reported police presence per capita is actually at an 18-year low. 2018 saw the seventh consecutive annual decline in this rate, with
Front-line police personnel are dealing with a growing-range of public safety and social issues in their communities, such as the opioid epidemic, human trafficking, gun violence, cybercrime and more.
In addition, many police services around the province are struggling to fill their schedules, which results in increased requests for overtime. More overtime can lead to higher rates of burnout, burnout can lead to potential mental health issues that may culminate in leaves of absence, and leaves of absence then result in further scheduling gaps. It's a difficult cycle to break without making a significant commitment to change. However, it is a cycle that must be broken to ensure the safety of the public and our members.
"At some point we need to ask the question, when will political leaders begin to acknowledge that there is a breaking point? The continuous underfunding of policing is not sustainable," says PAO President
Earlier this year, the
"This is greatly unfair to all members – those who are trying to get better and those still on-duty – as it puts them in very challenging positions," says Chapman. "Although likely unintentional, this model ends up exacerbating mental health and occupational stress issues. Members who are off on leave to get help will often feel the pressure to return to work too early because they don't want their teammates to burn out from filling the associated service gaps."
We don't need to look far for examples of how decreased police funding and strength has driven up mental health issues amongst police personnel. In 2018, the
Concrete changes are needed now. Immediate plans need to be made and implemented to address these very real issues, otherwise the safety of the public and our members will continue to be a great concern. The development of tools and resources to assist police personnel experiencing mental health issues is certainly a step in the right direction, but it does not address the root causes. The PAO is calling on all levels of government – municipal, provincial and federal – to commit to investing in the required police resources and social services to restore appropriate rates of police presence per capita so our police personnel are effectively able to protect the public and protect themselves.