Cornwall police hiring four officers to cover long-term illness

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The Cornwall Police Service is hiring four officers to fill in staffing shortages caused by officers off for long-term illness or parental leave.

In a report to the police board last week, Chief Shawna Spowart says the current practice of moving officers from specialized departments to cover day to day operations is “not sustainable given the current climate in policing.”

The CPS staffing plan covers typical absences for vacation, sickness and holidays but does not cover unforeseen events like Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, parental leave and long-term disability.

“Calls for service are at an all-time high, while the number of arrests being made and the level of violent crime are also on the rise,” she said.

“As Chief of Police, I believe we must take action to address the resource shortages that will ultimately affect officer safety as well as public safety.”

There are 15 front line officers off for various reasons, which account for nearly a third of the beat patrol.

Seven are absent on Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims while another two are on modified duty for medical reasons. The report states those nine are suffering from PTSD.

At full strength, the Cornwall Police Service has 93 police officers.

In a plan approved by the board, the force will hire three junior constables that will cost $248,472. They will be trained in January. CPS will use $251,214 expected in money from the WSIB to pay for those officers, meaning it won’t come at a cost to the taxpayer in 2023.

“Should staffing numbers improve, it would be understood that we reduce our authorized strength through attrition,” Spowart writes.

The chief doesn’t anticipate the return of four officers “who have been absent from the workplace for more than one year and there are no indications of these officers returning to the workplace.”

The fourth hire, a fully trained officer, is being hired immediately and will cover one of the two officers who are on parental leave for at least one year. That will be offset by the fact those officers on leave won’t be on the payroll in 2023.

All the recommendations were approved by the Cornwall Police Services Board on Thursday (Oct. 6).