London police seek to increase front-line staffing to meet 'unprecedented' demand

(Source: London Police Service)

During the April meeting of the London Police Services Board (LPSB), Chief Steve Williams recommended that the complement of front-line officers in the city must be increased.

According to a press release, the request came after what was a year of “unprecedented” demand on the police service which resulted in the redeployment of the Community Oriented Response (COR) Unit and other members to front-line duties.

“The London Police Service experienced an overwhelming demand for service in 2021,” said Williams. “While a year-over-year increase in dispatched calls for service was not deemed to be a significant workload factor, the nature of front police work has evolved.”

Williams said that calls for service are more complex and have increased severity, and therefore take longer to investigate and generate more responsibilities for officers. Citizens can sometimes wait hours — even days — for service. He adds that this trend has also been seen across other municipalities.

“As a result, our service to the community has suffered greatly. Further, the pace of work is not sustainable for our officers who are feeling the impacts,” Williams said.

In response to the increased demand, the LPSB moved to accept a request to add 52 new front-line constables to the current LPS complement.

LPS Board Chair Susan Toth said the board has been contacted by members of the public who have shared “heartbreaking stories” regarding long response times. She also noted that police are seeing more violence, use of weapons and service calls which include more complex factors, such as mental health crises — all of which creates a domino effect.

“The theme is clear: response times are not meeting our community’s needs,” said Toth. “It is to the detriment of our officers and the community when instead, police are rushed, wait times increase, and calls for service become backlogged.”

Speaking to CTV News London, Williams said that the additional workload has led to burnout among officers and that’s why they decided to take action. He adds that the need for additional staff is more important than ever as that policing demand is not going away anytime soon.

Williams also acknowledged the extra costs of hiring additional officers. A first-class constable with salaries and benefits earns about $140,000 a year, but said that the new hires won’t start off at that level, and the new officers will be phased in over multiple years.

“We are consistently in the bottom one or two of the single-tier police services in the province in terms of cost-per-capita,” said Williams. “We are among the cheapest. We run very leanly and very efficient, but there’s a cost to that and that’s manifesting with the wear-and-tear on our officers and the service to the community.”

The addition of new members will help achieve the ability to improve response times, especially for vulnerable people, will restore proactive and problem-solving policing with a focus on crime prevention, and will help restore a manageable workload for officers, according to the release.

The press release adds that the LPS administration and board will continue to work with the City of London in the coming months to determine the best way to ensure the delivery of adequate and effective police services to the community.

More background information and Williams’ full report can be found on the London police website.

— With files from CTV News London’s Gerry Dewan