RCMP detachments across Vancouver Island and the rest of B.C. are grappling with a serious shortage of police officers.
“I would hesitate to guess that there would be any that would be full. So whether it’s Comox Valley or Nanaimo there are going to be a number of vacancies soft and hard in all of them,” said Rob Farrer, National Police Federation director for the Pacific/North Region.
Hard vacancies are described as positions that are unfilled while soft vacancies are when officers are off with injuries or maternity leave as examples.
Across the country, RCMP and municipal police forces are facing the same problems with hiring.
The RCMP training depot in Regina was essentially closed for two years during COVID and it could take a lot longer to catch up.
“So now it’s trying to ramp back up and catch up and it’s hard to keep up when attrition was already at the same point as recruiting and the second part is recruiting itself is more challenging,” added Farrer.
The job itself is a lot more complex than it used to be and negative sentiment toward police driven recently by the “defund police” movement, primarily in the U.S. has negatively impacted the number of people wanting to enter policing.
It’s a problem Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog knows all too well as he is in regular contact with leaders at the local detachment.
“The inability to get officers to fill positions in Nanaimo is an ongoing and, I would describe, serious problem,” said Krog.
He points to a mental health crisis that uses a lot of police resources when officers should be dealing with major crims.
Nanaimo has budgeted for four more bike patrol officers for the downtown but can’t fill them.
“We budgeted for hiring 15 new police officers, three a year for five years and at any given time we know that we’re not able to fill the positions as necessary,” Krog said.
The National Police Federation says it’s asking Ottawa for more funding to increase capacity at the depot and to fund a study to learn more about why people don’t want to enter policing as a profession.
More information can be found here.