Nelson police chief Donovan Fisher says the shortage of constables in Nelson is leading to increased overtime and losing valuable time to rest between shifts.
“We have had a 20 per cent vacancy rate for our officers,” says Fisher. “The shortage has caused significant amounts of overtime with officers missing lunch breaks, being denied or having vacation time canceled, or in some cases being called back from vacation.”
He says shortages have left the department with officers not able to fill their proper roles, and this issue is rising right up through the chain.
“Sergeants are not doing their roles adequately,” Fisher says. “They are out taking calls for missing officers. Myself and the deputy have had to fill in as well for constables and respond to calls for officers who are missing.”
He says this has led to officers being exhausted because of the additional overtime, and added stress being applied to them.
“The continued shortage has led to occupational fatigue and stress, which has led to increased physical injury,” he says. “This has also led to increased use of sick leave, and a decline in individual performance.”
According to Fisher, these shortages also have led to an increase in [code of] conduct matters which can also go hand-in-hand with mental health.
“Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in conduct matters,” he says. “This is attributed to morale issues, mental illness and decreased performance.”
Fisher says all these factors put everyone at risk in the department, which also puts the residents in the city at risk.
“A number of these things contribute to an increased organizational risk,” he says.
Nelson police currently have 20 officers, including the chief and deputy, and carry a caseload of 52 calls per officer.
They currently have one of the highest caseloads per officer in the province, and the second highest call volume and charge approvals per capita in the province.
Fisher says the department is looking for an increase in funding to help with operational and training costs, but is not looking to increase the number of officers at this time.
“We are not asking for new funding for personnel,” he says. “Over 50 per cent of the officers we have now are reaching retirement age, so that is something we will have to keep in mind.”
Nelson police requested another $275,800 in the provisional police budget which was presented to council during the committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 22.