Lacombe Police Service needs more boots on the ground.
And it looks like it will be getting them sooner than expected.
At its regular meeting on June 24, City council voted unanimously to endorse the hiring of a new Lacombe Police Service constable as soon as possible rather than waiting until January of next year as originally planned.
Due to several unforeseen instances, the Lacombe Police Service is in need of another police officer to help out with staffing during the busy summer months when many members are away for vacation.
Chief Steve Murray said the only solution to this problem to hire the new member earlier than scheduled. “We just don’t have qualified police officers sitting out there waiting to be called up for casual work,” said Murray. “The ability to hire temporary police officers doesn’t even exist in this province.”
Murray said that, in order for Lacombe’s police officers to do their job safely and efficiently, there can never be less than two members working at a time.
In order to make sure there are sufficient members to meet that requirement at all times, Lacombe’s police officers are divided up into teams of three.
However, in practice, these teams function as teams of two more often than not. Because of commitments like court, training and vacations, one member is usually not available and so each team has an “extra” member to ensure there are always at least two police officers on duty.
Right now, Lacombe Police Service has enough staff for three teams of three members each. The fourth team consists of only two members and often needs to be supplemented from members of other teams. In order to bring the fourth team up to three members, Lacombe Police Service had already budgeted to hire a new member to start in January of 2014. Now, with many officers being gone on summer holidays, the LPS has been forced to fill the staff with overtime officers.
Murray said that overtime is not a practical option as it costs the City twice as much in salaries. He added it is also not safe for the officers working on what should be their days off as fatigue can lead to more illness and poor decision making. That affects the safety of Lacombians, who rely on the LPS to provide a service and keep them safe, he said.
Luckily, because of the way the LPS’ benefits plan works, the salaries of the officers on long-term disability are being paid by the benefit providers, not the City.
This means that there is a little extra money in the budget for the police service. Murray said some of this extra cash has gone to paying overtime for employees already, but it can also go towards paying the salary of the new officer.
Also, because Lacombe Police Service had already started the hiring process for a new member in January, they already have three currently serving officers screened and ready for approval. Murray said that the police service hopes to have the new member working in Lacombe by the end of the month.