By Kalinowski, Tim on March 7, 2020.
The Lethbridge Police Service is in the final stages of coming to an agreement with the Lethbridge Police Association on bringing in part-time officer positions.
“Part-time policing is absolutely something we are considering at this point,” confirms Chief of Police Scott Woods. “It’s something that has been in the works for awhile through collective bargaining. It’s actually embedded in the collective bargaining agreement with the Lethbridge Police Association. One of the problems with it has been it has been fairly wide open and vague. As we try to move forward as an organization that is looking at ways of doing things differently, looking at ways of meeting our employees’ needs differently. The workforce has changed a lot over the years; so we’re looking at ways to adapt a little bit better to some of the things we are seeing.”
It is hoped part-time policing positions will be of particular benefit to female officers, says Woods. The Lethbridge Police Service ranks below the national average for percentage of female officers. According to Woods, the national average is around 22 per cent. In Lethbridge it is closer to 10 per cent at the moment, he confirms.
“Not unique to the Lethbridge Police Service, but to policing in general, our female officers when they start doing their family planning and having children, having to work night shifts and meet some of the other (workload) demands that come with being a police officer, tends make them have to make a choice at some point. So we lose some really good officers that way, so we are looking at ways to move that forward where we can have female officers continue their career and spend their entire career in policing. We want to make it so it’s OK to be both a parent and police officer.”
Woods was asked if part-time policing might be the answer to another workforce issue they have been experiencing in recent years: about 10 per cent of LPS officers are on short- or longer-term disability for physical or mental injuries. Unfortunately not, says Woods.
“This part-time policing will be separate from that issue. Currently we have a high amount of officers that are off with various forms of injury. There are specific requirements with that, whether or not it is WCB practices to get people back to work healthy and ready to take on their full duties. We have a lack of capacity because we only have a certain amount spots where we can put these people.”
However, thanks to progress made on the part-time policing issue with the LPA, Woods says it should be come a reality within the service’s human resources structure soon.
“We already have two officers that are currently part-time policing, and we’ve got a couple others who have asked,” he says. “Initially, it was unique to each officer’s circumstances, but as we get more we have to have a bit more structure on that as far as where they can work within the organization, on which shifts, etc. Another thing we need to explore is potentially looking at job-sharing as well where two people share one full-time position.”
At the end of the day, Woods says whatever helps keep more officers on the job in the LPS will benefit the entire city.
“I think we have to realize the world of policing has changed,” Woods states. “We have to be able to adapt to it. And if we are truly serious about being diverse and attracting female officers and retaining them, we have to look at different ways of doing that. Part-time policing is one of a couple different ways we can look at in order to facilitate that so we can keep good people, and keep our (retention) numbers up.”
“There is a lot of time, money and expense that goes into training police officers,” he adds, ” and there is a fairly extensive vetting process. We want to retain these people we once we hire them, and not lose them.”
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