There is disturbing news from the co-chairman of the Summerside Police Services committee over the state of manpower in the city’s police department.
Coun. Peter Holman said nearly one-third, between eight and 10 members, of the department are out.
The cause is a variety of illnesses, injuries and by the councillor’s own admission “An awful lot of it is stress related.”
By the nature of the profession, it is a given that police officers will be injured in the line of duty and like everyone else, will get sick from time to time but it’s the stress-related absences that need to be addressed.
Every job has its level of stress, police probably more than most but in Summerside, it appears to have reached the point where it is affecting work performance.
This is an issue that has to be addressed by city management.
There is no question that the dispute between the city and former Deputy Police Chief David Griffin had an impact on the department that is still felt today.
In 1998 Griffin was charged with sexual harassment involving a female employee and with maintaining an unhealthy workplace environment. Arbiter Lynn Murray dismissed those charges and Griffin sued the city. He was successful in a malicious prosecution case against the city. The city appealed and lost in 2008. It was in 2012 when all of the issues surrounding the Griffin matter were settled.
Throughout that 14-year period, stress levels at the department were at an all-time high while morale was at an all-time low.
The current situation surrounding manpower in the department is having an effect on the officers.
“It’s a continuing battle,” Holman said. “It certainly has to have some effect on the morale within the department.”
Part-time police officers have been hired to try and fill the void, and in other instances, full-time personnel have put in costly overtime hours.
Despite that, Holman doesn’t see this as a major problem at this time and says the safety of the public is not in jeopardy.
“The citizens certainly aren’t in any danger,” he said. “We certainly make sure that there is adequate police available at any given time.”
When will it become a problem? How many officers will have to be replaced by part-timers before it raises a red flag?
How safe is the city and how safe are the officers on the street with a less than full compliment working longer hours?
Some councillors say they were unaware the number was that high and had they been informed the issue could have been addressed which raises an issue regarding communication between elected officials.
Holman said the status of the department is in the monthly reports that go to council but did say “I don’t know exactly how it is worded, I don’t know if it specifically mentions the numbers at any given time.”