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Calgary police, fire department looking years into the future for hiring

WATCH: Both Calgary police and fire want to hire more front line staff, but can’t this year due to budget restraints. Adam MacVicar reports.

As Calgary city councillors prepare to debate the newly proposed four-year budget, the city’s police service and fire department are looking at ways to maximize efficiency as no new staff are joining their forces in 2019.

As part of the city’s proposed budget presented to council on Wednesday, administration recommended no hiring for the Calgary Police Service for the first two years.

In the final two years, 60 members would be hired in each year, totalling 120 new hires.

READ MORE: 4 things to know about Calgary’s proposed four-year budget

The police service is “dramatically understaffed,” by approximately 100 members, according to Deputy Chief Paul Cook, who said Friday the service is looking at ways to “try to find efficiencies” to cope.

“I can tell you our front-line patrol members are inundated with calls for service,” Cook said.

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“In 2017 I believe we responded to, we received over 570,000 calls for service, which we attended approximately 60 per cent.”

Cook said the service’s priorities are set by the community, which he said has identified violent crime, property crime, crime prevention, drugs as well as guns and gang activity as their top concerns.

He said that as the service deals with the understaffing, it’s looking at changing its approaches to non-injury collisions and responding to fewer non-emergency calls, but said the details of those proposals haven’t been ironed out.

The Calgary Fire Department is also looking at postponing hiring 20 new members until 2020, as its budget is being clawed back by five per cent in 2019 as a means of lowering operating costs.

The department said it’s not expecting to do any layoffs, adding that part of the deferral comes from an approved unit that won’t be filled, but is concerned by the growing service gap as the city expands.

READ MORE: New ‘community hub’ fire station opens in northwest Calgary

The City of Calgary recently approved the development of 14 new communities on the city’s outskirts.

“There’s been a gap over a number of years, where previous councils started to invest in trying to close that gap but as the city expands, you still get that gap happening,” Deputy Chief Ken Uzeloc said Friday.

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Uzeloc said the department has asked for new stations in its budget, which he said would keep up “first due service” and maintain short response times in new neighbourhoods, adding that the 20 additional firefighters would be added support resources.

“It’s a balancing act between that first due unit and that full force that we need to get there, and sometimes the performance gaps are within one or the other,” he said.

Along with staffing, Uzeloc said supports around mental health and PTSD supports for members are key pieces in what the CFD has proposed to the city, along with some capital assets.

With files from Global’s Adam MacVicar

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