As many as nine police officers may join the Saint John Police Force this year, with dozens more expressing interest in a career with the force.

Chief Robert Bruce says the police force has “sponsored” four candidates who are currently enrolled at the Atlantic Police Academy at Holland College in Charlottetown.

The force doesn’t cover tuition costs, though candidates are guaranteed a job with the police force upon successful completion of academy training and on-the-job training with the Saint John Police.

Additionally, a group of “lateral entry hires,” or officers currently working at other police forces, will be joining the Saint John police, Bruce said, though the specific number of hires will depend on the number of retirements the force sees this year. 

The force has previously said it’s expecting a wave of retirements in the coming years, meaning dozens of positions may need to be back-filled.

The force has tried to be proactive, hosting 18 recruitment sessions in 2022 alone at high schools, post-secondary institutions, career fairs and more, Staff Sgt. Sean Rocca told the Saint John Police Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night.

“A lot of police forces are waiting for people to knock on their doors,” Bruce told the board. “As you can see, we’re aggressively recruiting candidates.”

Of the applicants, Bruce said the force will be focusing on picking “the best ones from our diverse community,” who are “homegrown and want to be here.”

Duane Squires, president of the Saint John Police Association, the force’s union, said news of the new hires was positive, as “our members have been working under-staffed for quite some time, with difficulty filling shifts.”

But, he said, “I’m always going to say there should be more,” as retirements have outpaced previous recruiting efforts “for several years.”

He said the union has approximately 126 members, which is an “all-time low” for the force.

Since the force launched a new website earlier this year, it has received 63 applications for “experienced officers,” along with 278 applications to be sponsored for the 2024 Atlantic Police Academy class.

The bottleneck, though, is the academy only holds one class per year.

The New Brunswick Chiefs of Police want to see the academy run two classes per year, or offer more seats in the annual class, Bruce said, given the “significant” hiring required in the province.

The Higgs government earmarked funding for 80 additional RCMP officers throughout the province, 50 of which are described as “boots on the ground.”

The Telegraph-Journal reached out to the Atlantic Police Academy, but its executive director was not available to comment.

By Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 16, 2023 at 05:53

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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