SUMMERSIDE – Workplace stress, injuries and illness have taken their toll on Summerside Police Services, depleting the ranks by nearly one-third.
Coun. Peter Holman, co-chairman of the city’s police committee and chairman of the human resources committee confirmed Monday, that between eight and 10 officers are out.
“It’s (manpower) down because of a number of officers being on sick leave,” Holman said. “It’s been going on for some time. It’s not something that just occurred. It’s been ongoing ever since I’ve been on council. It’s been an issue that I have addressed before. It’s a combination of shoulder injuries, back injuries, knee injuries and stress.”
The city has been hiring part-time people to try to fill in but are restricted as to the number of part-time replacements it is allowed to have at any given time, he said. Under the collective bargaining agreement the city is only permitted to hire six part-time replacements.
Holman said there are part-time employees working full-time shifts and they are fully trained.
“It’s a continuing battle,” Holman said. “It certainly has to have some effect on the morale within the department. I don’t think that we’re in the position that it’s a major issue but it certainly has to have some form of impact. You’re used to working with your buddies then all of a sudden you‘ve got four or five new people around that you don’t really know and possibly don’t have a comfort level with starting out.”
Holman wanted to reassure residents that their safety is not being compromised because of the manpower issue.
“The citizens certainly aren’t in any danger or anything of that nature,” he said. “We certainly make sure that there is adequate police available at any given time. It’s a very tough thing because you don’t know how long these individuals are going to be gone.”
The cost of policing under these circumstances increases as well with overtime required to meet the services to the public.
“To a certain extent, it does, affect overtime,” Holman said. “We try to monitor over overtime very closely because it is very costly.”
Holman said this situation isn’t peculiar to Summerside.
“It’s a very common thing throughout policing right throughout Canada,” he said. “We just returned from the Canadian Association of Police Governance in Saskatoon and it’s an issue that was discussed there and it’s common. It’s all work related. An awful lot of it is stress related.”
Budgetary restraints and the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the police union dictate how large a force the city can maintain.
“We only have so much money that we can put into our policing,” Holman said. “The union contract becomes the major issue here. It puts fairly considerable restrictions on what we can and can’t do. At some point, when these officers do get better they do have to came back, which in turn relates to layoffs for the part-time people.”