RCMP in St. Albert deal with staffing shortage
St. Albert's RCMP are dealing with a staffing crunch.
The number of job vacancies at the detachment have reached almost 30 per cent, meaning fewer proactive policing efforts in the Edmonton bedroom community.
"Any organization that’s got, say, 50-plus employees are going to have a vacancy rate," Insp. Ryan Comaniuk, the RCMP officer in charge of St. Albert, told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday. "Right now, mine’s a little higher than I’d like it to be."
Currently, there are two vacancies — and 16 officers not available to work because of absences such as mental-health leaves or illness.
"I just lost an officer this week to an on-duty injury, and when you’ve got a small department of 70 officers, you take one or two out of the lineup and it's a big deal," Comaniuk said, adding he believes adding five new positions to the roster — bringing its roster to 75 — could help.
St. Albert city councillor Ken MacKay, who is also a council representative on the city's policing committee, says additions for the RCMP will be part of budget discussions this fall.
"Affordability is certainly going to be one of the challenges," MacKay said. "A full RCMP officer is quite expensive."
He said "we'll have to see" how St. Albert city council feels about the proposal.
"I certainly support it if that's what's going to help us in this situation," MacKay said.
For now, with fewer officers, Comaniuk says St. Albert will have fewer policing initiatives such as neighbourhood patrols, traffic enforcement or taking part in community events until staffing levels go back up.
"The reality is that people in the city aren’t going to see the police as much as they used to until we can get this vacancy rate dealt with," he said.
Such moves will have an impact on public safety and security, says CTV public safety expert Chris Lewis.
"Ultimately, people won’t feel as safe if they never see police cars drive by and if crime rates subsequently go up or other nuisance calls," Lewis said.
"Staff morale when they’re short-handed, they can’t do all the follow up they’d like to do. They’re going from call to call, it’s difficult to take time off, it’s difficult to go away on training courses because there’s such a shortage — that affects morale and that ultimately can affect professionalism and productivity."
The RCMP maintains it's well-equipped to deal with all emergencies or crime in the community.
"Everybody’s got to do more with less, that’s the reality, and yes, there is the concern with burnout and an increased workload," Comaniuk said.
The RCMP is hopeful its staffing issues will start to be resolved by the end of the year.