Part time constables not enough for short staffed police: union president
January 24, 2023 By Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Jan. 24, 2023, Saint John, N.B. – The Saint John Police Force’s union leader says recruitment efforts would be better spent on adding members to the city’s police complement, rather than augmenting its current staffing levels with part-time constables.
Last week, the City of Saint John put out an expression of interest for part-time police constables to work on an as-needed basis for a maximum of 20 hours per week.
Applicants must have previously served as a police officer within the last three years in Canada and meet the minimum policing requirements for New Brunswick, along with meeting current fitness and medical standards, among other requirements.
Duane Squires, president of the Saint John Police Association, said he’d like to see efforts focused on growing the police force’s complement of full-time officers in light of chronic short-staffing.
Sean Rocca, spokesperson for the police force, said the goal of the part-time policing effort is to “bolster frontline operations by supplementing our short-term vacancies with experienced officers.”
He added the force doesn’t have a specific target for how many part-time constables they hope to hire, saying “we are currently gauging interest to determine if a suitable pool of qualified personnel is available.”
The Telegraph-Journal asked how many police officers are currently working, and how many are on leave for any number of reasons, but Rocca said the force doesn’t release human resources information.
Squires says currently, there are 137 police officers in Saint John, compared to 176 when he started in 2006.
Last fall, when the police force’s 2023 budget was made public, the force received funding for 142 officers – with wage and benefits costing the city $23.75 million this year, approximately an eight per cent increase from the year prior.
The union president also said the call for part-time constables was put forward after “very limited” consultation with union leaders.
“If they are to follow through, it requires at least minimal communication with us, and there hasn’t been any,” he said Monday.
Rocca said the police force did consult with the union before announcing the program.
The force’s collective agreement dictated at least 10 officers must be on patrol – with a minimum of two in each of the city’s four districts. But on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night shifts, the minimum jumps to 12 officers.
Squires declined to offer specifics, but said “more often than not,” those levels aren’t being met.
Other programs have recently been put in place in an attempt to alleviate strain on front-line officers, including an alternative response program, which handles calls for non-emergencies like vandalized signs or a neighbour’s barking dog complaint.
Such calls are routed to the alternative response system which consists of police officers who take reports but don’t attend the scene, police chief Robert Bruce told the Telegraph-Journal when the program was first announced in September 2022.
Then, too, Squires voiced his “major concerns” with the force’s staffing levels, saying “we’re regularly working short-staffed.”
Print this page