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‘That’s too many’: Halifax Regional Police lose 30 members in six months

Click to play video: 'Union representing Halifax police officers say staffing levels at all-time low'
Union representing Halifax police officers say staffing levels at all-time low
The union representing Halifax police officers says they’re losing officers at a pace they can’t replace. It says staffing levels might be at an all-time low and so is morale. Skye Bryden-Blom reports – Jun 27, 2023

The union representing Halifax Regional Police (HRP) officers says the service is losing members at a rate the city can’t replace.

The interim president of the Halifax Regional Police Association warns staffing and morale are at an all-time low, and keeping people at work is a struggle.

Experts say police recruitment has failed to keep up with the needs of the 21st century.

“People aren’t leaving police,” the association’s acting president Darla Perry said. “They’re leaving Halifax Police.”

Thirty officers have left HRP over the last six months, the interim president said.

“That’s too many,” Perry noted. “We’re not able to keep up with the staffing numbers, whether it’s dispatch, patrol, the criminal intelligence division. We’re struggling to keep people at work.”

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Darla Perry, interim president of the Halifax Regional Police Association. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

Twenty have moved on to other agencies across Canada, including the RCMP. Some have joined Halifax Fire. Ten others retired.

Perry adds up to 20 per cent of the force is currently off on leave, which adds to the workload.

She says another problem is that many new recruits do not see policing as a career.

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“People are coming out and trying out the job instead of it being something you wanted to do since you were a child,” the 30-year police member and HRP sergeant said.

Officers want to see more training opportunities and better benefits.

Perry says the RCMP is pulling workers through a strong recruitment campaign.

“You can go into different specialty units,” she says. “You can stay within the HRM municipality or Nova Scotia. They’re offering lifetime benefits.”

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‘Stepping up’ to tackle shortages: chief

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella released a statement Friday, saying the force has been “stepping up in multi-faceted ways” over the past four years to tackle the staffing issues.

“In recent months, as a result of competing recruitment efforts, we are seeing both an influx of members to HRP from other policing services as well some of our members who are leaving for other opportunities,” he said.

“And though projections for HRP members eligible to retire remain high, the addition of 26 members next week graduating from our in-house cadet program and the ongoing and consistent addition of experienced police officers, we will also add a substantial number.”

Kinsella went on to say there was a period of “lower frequency of training” during COVID-19, but training is now ramping up. Discussions are also taking place, he said, to bolster training capacity and offer training more frequently.

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“There will however always be constraints related to seniority and organizational needs as governed by the collective agreement that we must continue to respect,” he said.

Staffing shortages felt across North America

Experts say the struggle is being felt across North America.

“They know millennials and Gen Z don’t want to become police officers so they have to recruit from existing ranks of police,” says Saint Mary’s University criminology professor Stephen Schneider.

“They’re robbing municipal police forces all across Canada.”

Mount Royal University justice studies professor Doug King warns the choice is not about money, but quality of life.

“Is the job supervision strong?” he asks. “Is leadership appropriate? Are officers given the opportunity for personal and professional development? Do you have a daycare facility?”

Perry does not want people to fear. Despite coming up short, she says police will show up when called.

“They need to know that we’re there for them,” she says. “That we’re going to come. It might now be as quick as it always used to be. It may not be with the amount of numbers that we need.”

But she says they’ll be equipped and ready.

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Click to play video: 'Halifax Regional Police members give chief strong non-confidence vote'
Halifax Regional Police members give chief strong non-confidence vote

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