Cornwall police adding four police officers in 2020

Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman speaks to the police board on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 about adding four police officers to the force next year. The supplemental officers would cover the front line as the police department has four employees off on WSIB or long term disability. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The Cornwall Police Service will be adding four “supplemental” police officers to its payroll next year to cover a lack of bodies on the front line.

Chief Danny Aikman told the police board Thursday morning that the force is down 11 people of its 89 officers on community patrol – three are Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claimants and the fourth is on long term disability.

“This is not simply an ask for additional personnel,” Aikman said, noting the 11 absentees are about 20 per cent of their front line officers.

The lack of officers has hit the budget to the tune of $268,465 last year and $212,218 up until the end of October this year just to meet “minimum staffing levels.”

With the lack of officers, the force is already seeing those already at work experiencing increased rates of sickness as they deal with an ever increasing number of calls.

The chief said the other alternative to the hires was to disband units like the Community Street Crime Unit but he was “not prepared to do that.”

The four new officers wouldn’t be on the beat until the middle of next year because they have to go to police college for six months. Aikman said overtime costs would remain at their current, manageable levels until the second half of 2020.

As for paying for those four officers, the money would come partly from WSIB payments to the force but there would be a “small increase” in the 2020 budget to cover them – about $29,000.

The plan would be to have the “supplemental” officers take positions left vacant through retirement. There are seven already on the force who are eligible to retire.

The board approved the chief’s hiring plan.