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More officers needed: DRPA president

Colin Goodwin wants 300 more officers in Durham, not just 20

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

The president of the Durham Region Police Association says it’s “a mistake” that more than 20 new officers have been cut out of the 2020 budget.

After the region passed its 2020 budget guidelines, Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS) was forced to cut funding from their budget for 27 more frontline officers,

“Our frontline are seriously understaffed,” he says. “We just had the 2018 stats from Stats Canada for officers to population across the country, and the average in Ontario is 194 officers to 100,000 citizens. Durham sits at 127.”

He notes DRPS is currently allowed to have little more than 900 officers, but that’s every position from the chief of police to the newest recruits, and also includes officers who are injured or on medical leave.

“Our actual numbers should be, based on the national and provincial averages… somewhere around 1,200 officers,” says Goodwin.

Several councillors, including Oshawa’s Ward 5 councillor Brian Nicholson, previously advocated for finding a way to add more officers within the budget guidelines they were given.

But, according to Goodwin, doing so would create a problem.

“The only way you’re going to end up doing that is by shutting down other [programs],” he says. “If your focus is to have frontline officers available to respond to emergency calls, then everything else within the organization has to be looked at.”

He explains certain officers would need to be moved around in order to meet this goal.

“You start to look at specialty units and community units where you would have to pull officers out of that to put them on the road to have enough staffing in order to deal with the calls that we deal with every year,” he says.

Goodwin adds Durham police recieve more than 250,000 calls per year, and “we’re still staffed like it’s 2002.”

Multiple councillors, such as Clarington councillor Joe Neal and Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan pointed out crime is down around the region before approving the guidelines.

“Generally politicians will trot that [point] out to back up their position on why we don’t need to increase the police budget, but there was [recently] a pursuit in Oshawa with a stolen car, where it ended up hitting an innocent third party…, you had a home invasion or a drug deal gone bad, a shot was fired and a loaded handgun recovered, and these councillors just want to bury their heads in the sand about what’s actually happening in Durham Region,” says Goodwin.

He also points out Durham sits on the eastern border of the largest city in the entire country – Toronto.

“Criminals don’t look at the regional boundary and say, ‘You know what? We’re not going into Durham Region today,’” he says. “A lot of trans-regional crime happens all across the GTA, all across the country, but we tend to look at our own little patch, and forget that the criminal element don’t care about that.”

While council has agreed review the guidelines so DRPS can add 20 more frontline officers before finalizing the 2020 budget, Goodwin says the region needs much more than that.

“Twenty more officers is a drop in the bucket, we need 300 more,” he says. “The police board and the chief have all been pushing this to get more officers in Durham Region.”

Goodwin explains when the region talks about the hiring which goes on, it’s simply attrition.

“There’s a class that just got hired – they’ll be going to police college in January – and I think it’s 16 or 20 officers, but that [group] is to address the 35 retirements we’ve had in the last six months,” says Goodwin. “So this 20 is supposed to bring our authorized strength from 900 to 920. We don’t need 20, we need 300.”

Goodwin adds Durham is growing, and as it grows crime rates will increase.

“There is nowhere across Canada that you’re immune to anything,” he says. “As you bring more people into an area to live you increase traffic congestion, you increase crime, it happens with every municipality, and regional council is burying its head in the sand thinking that is not going to happen in Durham Region.”