A number of police officers in London, Ont., Working in proactive initiatives are redeployed to the frontlines as the police department faces a workload that the city’s top cop has described as “reaching a peak. breaking point “.
Chief Steve Williams shared the news at Thursday’s meeting of the London Police Services Board (LPSB), the civilian board responsible for overseeing police.
In a note to the LPSB shared ahead of the meeting, Williams presented statistics comparing workload levels between January and October 2021 to the same period in 2020.
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Agents spent 33,000 overtime hours in the 2021 period answering roughly the same number of calls as they did in the 2020 period, according to Williams.
“These overtime hours are equivalent to the workload of an equivalent of 16 full-time employees,” added his memo.
He also noted that Code 1 calls, which relate to emergencies, life-threatening situations and ongoing serious crimes, increased by 27%.
Meanwhile, Code 2 calls, which relate to urgent non-urgent calls, saw their response times increase by 96%.
“September 2021 alone saw a 226% increase in Code 2 response time compared to September 2020,” the memo reads.
In other statistics shared with the LPSB last month, Williams said response times for Code 2 and Code 3 calls, which relate to non-emergency situations without immediate threat to life or personal safety, are now measured in days, not hours.
The increased demand cost police just over $ 450,000 in overtime, as well as “60 occasions where minimum staffing requirements under the collective agreement could not be met.”
Other impacts include worker fatigue and exhaustion, as well as damage to morale and member well-being.
Police have also seen repeated concerns from the public about increased response times.
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A number of steps have been taken to address the issue and the most likely to be noticed by the public is the redeployment of officers.
The redeployments include eight school resource officers who are temporarily assigned to front line patrol duties.
Eight officers from “other operational areas” were also temporarily redeployed.
Elsewhere, 11 officers from the Community Oriented Response Unit (COR) were redeployed for patrol duties, however, this shift was scheduled for an indefinite period.
The COR unit functions as a team of officers assigned to different areas of the city. This team is then tasked with building relationships in these areas in order to respond to chronic neighborhood problems and analyze localized trends.
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Williams says the loss of this unit means the police will be “more responsive and less agile”, adding that he hopes the redeployment is only temporary.
“There is no doubt that our response time was suffering, keeping calls in the queue for days is not acceptable, but the trajectory we are on in relation to service requests could affect our ability to respond to emergencies in the community, ”Williams told the board. Thursday.
“These changes will help mitigate that risk. “
Williams says police are currently reviewing how they handle service calls, potentially diverting some to other agencies and reconsidering whether others are worth answering.
He adds that more staff is needed, which he hopes to achieve with a course at the Ontario Police College in January, as well as increased funding for the City of London’s 2023 annual budget update. to its multi-year budget.
“The City of London will get the police service it pays for, like any municipal service,” Williams said.
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LPSB Vice President and Ward 4 Council Jesse Helmer pushed back Williams’ long-term goal, telling the board he was “not convinced that the solution is that we just need more ‘money”.
Helmer pointed to the complexity of the problem, adding that although police have added staff every year, the recent workload issue has nonetheless emerged.
“The boss talks about ‘turn off the tap,’ like stopping all those incoming calls, the intensity of the calls, the severity of the calls. Is it really affected by the number of police officers who are there? No, he’s affected by all of these non-police things, ”Helmer said.
“I’m not saying that no increase in resources is reasonable or necessary, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just saying we just need more… how do we change the overall response? How to deal with problems upstream so that they are avoided?
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The board voted to receive Williams’ note, but no decision has been made on whether requests for funding to alleviate the workload will be made in the future.
The city is currently engaged in budget discussions for the 2022 annual update of its multi-year budget, which covers spending between 2020 and 2023.
If a request for funding through the growth of assessments were to be made, it would not be unveiled until the end of next year, when the city prepares its annual 2023 budget update.
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