Sgt. Charles Boyles has been a police officer for 31 years. Come July, he will retire, making him one of dozens of police officers in Kingston to holster their guns and hang up their hats.
A total of 37 local police officers will be eligible to retire within the next three years. That means Kingston might have to replace one fifth of its 205-strong police force.
Like all new officers, Boyles began his accomplished career on foot patrol. Through the last three decades he has worked with the crime prevention unit, traffic enforcement, street crime unit, special services branch, criminal investigation and ending with his current position as a case manager for court services.
Boyles sees retirements like his as an opening for a whole new set of officers.
“It’s kind of important for people – if they are considering policing – in the next few years there’s a large opportunity.”
The problem is that hiring brand new police officers can take quite some time. Recruitment, police college and field training can take several months each.
“It takes at least a year for that individual, that recruit or young officer to be ready,” said Larochelle.
Nevertheless, Larochelle admits that he enjoys hiring new people.
“We can model them, and set them on a course for our organization.”
Considering new recruits can’t be put into the field right away, Kingston’s law enforcement have been ramping up their hiring process, and are actively looking for recruits from all over Canada.
Kingston isn’t the only city dealing with a multitude of impending retirements, according to Larochelle. In fact, one of Kingston’s biggest impediments to hiring new officers are other recruiting municipalities from across the country.
Larochelle says that Kingston experienced a large amount of hiring in the 80s, and now that these officers are slated to retire, Kingston will be going through a hiring spree once again.
Human Resources director Sonja Verbeek says that the sheer number of new hires is bit daunting, but in order to deal with the possible losses, they’re looking ahead.
“We’re starting the whole process well in advance when we’re hiring,” said Verbeek. “Currently we’re looking at September, but previously we didn’t look that many months in advance.”
She also says that Kingston Police have modernized their hiring process, allowing applicants to apply online rather than send in their applications through the mail.
“We actually have increased significantly the number of applications transitioning to the online application system,” says Verbeek. She added that they’ve been focusing a lot of social media recruiting, casting their net Canada-wide for potential applicants.
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Loss of experienced officers
When asked about the potential to lose a lot of Kingston’s most experienced officers, Verbeek did admit that a significant amount of corporate knowledge will be lost. She and Larochelle said that they are trying to counteract that loss by hiring a mix of experienced hires and new recruits.
But according to national statistics, that might not be so easy.
Census data shows that in 2015 and 2016, 86 per cent of police hires in Canada were new recruit graduates, meaning less than 15 per cent of hires were experienced officers.
Also, about half of those experienced officers had been working with police for less than five years.
By the numbers alone, it might be difficult to fill Kingston’s nearly 40 spots with an equal mix of new recruits and more seasoned officers.
Diversifying the force
Despite the loss of experience, Larochelle noted that one benefit of hiring so many officers is to add new people with diverse experiences and backgrounds to the team.
Kingston Police diversity officer Frank Howard says they’re actively recruiting people from more multicultural communities.
Howard said that he’s been going out to events that cater to minority communities, trying to communicate to young people, sometimes as young as five years old, that a job as a cop is an option for them.
“When they actually see someone working within our community from their group, they can see themselves in the role.”
Even with their new efforts, Howard admitted that the force won`t change overnight.
“It’s like turning a ship around,” Howard said.
Larochelle pointed out that the Kingston Police force is on track with Canada’s national average of female officers, which is 21 per cent for Canada and about 20 per cent in Kingston, and that they will also be pursuing more female officers in the future.
As for Boyles, he hopes that the recruits will come into the job ready to be flexible, not just with their schedules, but also mentally.
“Law enforcement is sort of like a work in progress. It’s always moving forward, it’s always changing and developing. Some of it good, some of it bad.”
When asked what Boyles would miss most about the job he answered, “the people you end up missing that you’ve spent more time with than your family.”