Ottawa’s police services board has unanimously approved a plan to fast-track hiring 70 more police officers.
Police Chief Peter Sloly said the move, along with 30 previously-approved hires, will lead to higher-quality policing and won’t cost taxpayers any additional money in the long term.
“These are all officers that would have been hired over the next four years. We’re just fast-forwarding and accelerating that into the first year,” said Sloly.
“It’s a short-term push to get a higher impact on our staffing.”
The plan is expected to cost $14.7 million over four years and the force will reprioritize existing funds in its budget to pay for the new recruits, according to the police service’s plan.
It’s taking $9.4 million from what it deemed an underperforming six-year modernization plan approved in April 2016 and pulling the rest from reserve funds.
“The community has told me they we want to see more policing, better policing, higher-quality policing, a more reflective and diverse police organization,” said Sloly.
“Everyone is asking for more, not less. Certainly from our officers, they feel stretched, morale is down, they don’t feel they’re delivering the service that the community demands of them or that they want to deliver.”
The next round of new hires in this plan would be 20 in 2023, smaller than previously planned.
Quality of recruits maintained
Hiring so many new officers in 2020 will not mean a reduction in the quality of the recruits, Sloly said in response to a question from the board’s acting chair Sandy Smallwood on Monday.
The new hires will give the force a “sustainable base of operating capacity that we don’t currently have” when they’re ready to get to work by next year, Sloly said.
The report to the board said there are more than 200 job applicants to Ottawa police with a “strong representation of various identified groups including racialized and female candidates.”
Mayor Jim Watson said he supported the hiring plan and thinks it will have “a very positive impact on coverage and presence in different neighbourhoods.”
“I think in my memory, at least the last 25 years, this is the single largest hiring of police officers in one year,” said Watson.