The Nelson Police Department has its eighteenth member!
Our newest recruit, Constable Lauren Mirva, is back to the department after graduating from the Justice Institute of BC on June 23. Constable Mirva has filled the position created when Police Services directed council to fund one additional sworn officer and a civilian position.
It has been over 2 ½ year since the Nelson Police Board first asked Council for the additional staffing. Even after receiving approval to hire another member last April, Cst. Mirva’s training only began in September and then it took nine months before the her graduation in June. During those nine months, the recruit member must work with an officer coach and is not to be considered a qualified member, so we were technically running that member short.
Last year and the beginning of this year was very hard on the department for injuries. We had members off injured for 597 shifts last year which is equivalent to one and three quarter positions. With injured police members, it makes it very hard to staff shifts unless members are pulled from other positions or come in on overtime. One of the first positions to be pulled was the beat officer position and we certainly saw this over the past year.
When we are short staffed, our members are working short-handed or working extra shifts to cover for those that are injured, and our community is not receiving a proper level of service….. and we have seen that in our downtown core these past 4 or 5 months.
But in this past month, with the swearing in of two new officers, Cst Andrew Hildred from Saanich Police and Cst Rob Armstrong who recently retired from the Toronto Police Service, as well as the return of our recruit officer, we will have, for the first time in our history, eighteen officers. We still have one officer off injured and he will be off until 2018. This was the result of an apprehension of a mental health client, which is unfortunately too common of an occurrence for policing departments. About 2/3 of our injuries to members occur with our interaction with individuals with mental health concerns.
While in the past we would normally be running short with this injured member, we will not be doing that this summer. Cst. Armstrong will be filling in for the injured member from June until the end of September – which is typically our busiest time of the year. With this part-time temporary member, we will not be running short and will not be required to pull the beat officer from the downtown to cover for our patrol units.
We are an extremely busy police department. We are always among the top two or three for criminal code charges per member among the municipal police departments. Last year our dispatchers answered 18,000 telephone calls, 3100 911 calls, which included about 1500 911 calls for our department alone. We looked after 870 prisoners in our cells, including almost 300 of our own arrests. We answered 6300 calls for service in 2016. Oak Bay and Central Saanich Police Departments, the next two smallest police departments in the province both of whom have 24 police officers, had about 4300 calls for service each. So our police officers are answering 30% more calls with 30% less staff.
To better support our civilian staff, we have implemented a telephone answering tree and will be reducing our front counter hours at the department. With our department receiving 18,000 calls per year, we have been able to divert about 40% of calls to the appropriate department by using this telephone answering tree. At present we are the only municipal department with a 24/7 front counter. As of August 15, we will be reducing our hours from 8-6 pm Monday to Friday and from 10 am – 1 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.