‘We just offer affordability’: Edmonton Police Service recruiting on Vancouver Island

CHEK

Officers from the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) are searching for new officers on Vancouver Island to fill 150 positions in 2024.

This week, EPS is recruiting 150 new officers to join its force next year, travelling to different locations, including the University of Victoria.

“We’re hiring three classes of 50 recruits per class, so it’ll be a total of 150 recruits that we’ll be hiring for this year, 2023, for 2024, and for 2025,” said Cst. Alex Shaw, a recruiter for EPS.

Travelling to other provinces for recruitment isn’t uncommon for EPS. Shaw says they typically do at least three out-of-province trips for recruitment a year, and they’ve also gained interest from international applicants.

“At EPS, we’ve had over 350 expresses of interest from individuals, currently sworn members from outside of Canada,” he said.

The recruiting strategies are aggressive, but Shaw says it’s their location and cost of living that has successfully helped them attract officers to the front lines.

“We just offer affordability. So the availability to purchase and own your own home, and you do make a very good wage with EPS,” said Shaw.

Recruitment for police officers across the country has been difficult due to problems related to COVID-19 in the past and a negative view towards officers. B.C. also has the highest cost of living, according to an October 2023 report by Westland Insurance.

Staff Sgt. Kris Clark with the BC RCMP says this year’s efforts in finding both new and experienced officers have been successful.

“Over the 12-18 months, we have sworn in close to 100 experienced officers…with respect to new/cadet applicants, we are seeing significant increase in applications,” said Clark in an email to CHEK News.

Cadet troops at the training academy are up to 32 applicants, with a third of every troop going to B.C., according to Clark. A team of senior officers is assigned to determine which communities would need adequate police resources.

“Additional resources have been used to support community events and seasonal policing needs, where there is often an increase in the populations. We recognize that any vacancy places additional burdens on those who are working in affected areas,” said Clark.

On the Island, West Shore RCMP say they’re currently at full vacancy but sometimes experience staff shortages due to leaves of absence.

READ MORE: VicPD receives more than 40 applications in one month after announcing officer incentive program

In 2021, Victoria police offered a $20,000 sign-on bonus as a cash incentive to recruit new officers. They say they still have some difficulties getting recruits but add it’s a challenge nationwide.

“A lot of organizations are facing challenges, there’s a lot of opportunities for people out there these days. Affordability is a big one. We have a lifestyle to offer here at Victoria that not everyone has,” said VicPD Cst. Terri Healy.

Victoria police hired 15 new recruits in 2023 and want to increase that number to 24 next year. The department says they still have 12 hiring bonuses available.

The department says it has even streamlined its recruitment process including fewer application steps and allowing some to be processed before completing the fitness test.

“It hasn’t brought our standards down, so we still have standards for fitness, medical, character, and background. We’re still looking for people that are committed to public service, community work, people with excellent written and verbal communication skills, really demonstrated desire to work closely with their community,” said Healy.

VicPD say they don’t travel off the Island to recruit officers and currently don’t have any plans to change that.

Saanich police, meanwhile, say they do travel to the Lower Mainland and Alberta to recruit officers, but they find a struggle of finding experienced officers.

“Right now, there is a very tough market when it comes to experienced police officers in Canada,” said Saanich Police Sgt. Damian Kowalewich.

“A lot of police agencies are vying for quality, experienced officers. It can be tough sometimes to recruit those to different communities, depending on the economy and depending on the cost of living.”

Saanich police couldn’t provide numbers on staffing levels but say they are actively recruiting. Kowalewich says he recognizes the aggressive job market for police departments in the country.

“We support all police agencies getting their staffing levels to appropriate levels, we know how competitive it is…we’re ready for new applicants, and we consider ourselves one of the top employers,” he added.

Oli Herrera

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