The London Police Service is attempting to extend the variety of frontline staff to satisfy demand

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During the April meeting of the London Police Services Board (LPSB), chief Steve Williams recommended increasing the number of front-line officers in the city.

According to a press release, the request comes after a year of “unprecedented” demand for the police service, which led to the deployment of the Community Oriented Response (COR) Unit and other members to frontline operations.

“The London Police Service has seen overwhelming demand for services in 2021,” Williams said. “While a year-over-year increase in 911 calls made was not considered a significant workload factor, the nature of frontline policing has evolved.”

Williams said duty calls are more complex and rigorous, so they take longer to investigate and create more accountability for officers. Citizens can sometimes wait hours—even days—for service. He adds that this trend can also be observed in other municipalities.

“As a result, our service to the community has suffered greatly. Additionally, the pace of work is unsustainable for our officers who are feeling the impact,” Williams said.

In response to increased demand, the LPSB has accepted a request to add 52 new Frontline Police officers to the current LPS supplement.

LPS board chair Susan Toth said the board has been contacted by members of the public who have shared “heartbreaking stories” of long response times. She also noted that police are seeing more violence, the use of guns and service calls that involve more complex factors such as mental health crises – all creating a domino effect.

“The issue is clear: Response times are not meeting the needs of our community,” Toth said. “It’s to the detriment of our officers and the community when, instead, police are in a rush, wait times are increasing and service calls are backlogged.”

Speaking to CTV News London, Williams said the extra workload was causing officers to burn out and that’s why they decided to take action. He adds that the need for additional staff is more important than ever as the need for police is not going away anytime soon.

Williams also acknowledged the additional cost of hiring additional officers. A top-tier police officer with salaries and benefits makes about $140,000 a year, but said hiring doesn’t start at that level and new officers are hired in stages over several years.

“We’re consistently in the bottom one or two of the single tier police services in the province in terms of cost per capita,” Williams said. “We are among the cheapest. We work very lean and very efficiently, but that comes at a price, and that manifests itself in the attrition of our officers and service to the community.”

The addition of new members will help improve response times, particularly for vulnerable individuals, restore proactive and problem-solving policing with a focus on crime prevention, and help restore a manageable workload for officers, the press release said.

The press release adds that the LPS Administration and Board will continue to work with the City of London over the coming months to determine the best way to ensure the delivery of adequate and effective policing services to the community.

More background information and Williams’ full account can be found on the London Police website.

– With files by Gerry Dewan of CTV News London