When the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) graduates its class in August, the number will be noticeably smaller than usual and won’t replace the officers who have retired this year, but Chief Bill Janes said that’s an anomaly.
“We ended up with a smaller number of candidates than we thought were suitable than we did in some other years,” Janes told The Telegram.
“It’s like applying for any job. For any job, the applicant pool is stronger one year than it is in another.”
Only 13 cadets will be graduating compared to the usual 16-18 and that’s because not all the applicants made it past a multi-step selection process that includes screening and background checks, physical endurance requirements, a polygraph exam and psychological testing in addition to interviews and training.
Eighteen officers have retired from the RNC since Jan. 1.
One-quarter of the RNC’s approximately 400 officers are eligible or will be eligible to retire in the next year. Although that’s 100 officers, only about 20 generally leave each year.
The RNC won’t have the same dilemma when a new class starts training in September — there are 30 or 31 cadets lined up, Janes said, largely crediting a social media campaign that uses such sites as Twitter and Facebook with expanding the target pool.
In Budget 2014, the Tory government approved an increase of 10 spots for RNC recruits in each of the next two years.
Recruitment concerns have been a topic in the ranks.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association (RNCA) — the union that represents officers — approached the police chief about allowing officers from other forces to transfer in, instead of solely relying on the new cadet recruitment program.
“Right now, I don’t think the chief or the organization are looking to go down the road. I think they prefer to recruit right into the (MUN) program,” said RNCA president Const. Warren Sullivan of the informal talk he had with Janes about the subject.
“We are in favour of wherever we can get police officers from. If recruiting is going well, we don’t have an issue.”
Janes acknowledged the conversation and told The Telegram the RNC has built its training program through Memorial University.
RNC cadets go through the police studies diploma program at MUN with two academic semesters and a practical training semester at the RNC complex in St. John’s.
“As I see it now, Memorial University is meeting our needs very well. We have a program we have built with them the last 10 years and it meets our needs and the needs of our community,” Janes said.
“If you get people who are trained in other facilities, then they are coming from a different culture. Their needs might be totally different from ours. If somebody trains with us, we get to watch them for the full year.”
Experienced officers from other forces can apply to the RNC, but acceptable candidates must go through the two-semester MUN program and, when it comes to the third semester, may be able to start work early, Janes said. They would enter the pay scale based on their years of experience.
With its current strategy, Janes said the RNC has an adequate complement of street officers and has determined through an analysis, including time spent on calls, that it needs an additional 20 officers a year.
In the past few years, more officers have entered the force than have left, he said.
In 2011, 18 officers retired. In 2012, there were 21 retirements, and in 2013, 18 retired.
Employees eligible for retirement are surveyed about their retirement plans and the RNC takes into account those past retirement numbers.
“The survey and what they tell us is part of the equation. We expect 20 people, on average, leave each year. It’s been working out very close,” Janes said, adding the positive side of retirement is it brings renewal to the force and creates new openings in specialized roles.
In addition to social media, the RNC recruits through job fairs and school presentations, but is looking at other methods, such as specific email groups — for example, physical education students.
It’s also trying to reach out to cultural groups and has had success increasing the number of women on the force — 24 per cent of officers are female compared to eight per cent a decade ago. The next decade will see female officers assume more RNC leadership roles, Janes said.
Sullivan told The Telegram the government needs to sustain the commitment of additional officers for the next three to five years or more.
“Twenty additional officers I don’t think is going to resolve all of our issues, certainly. … Ongoing, I think we need to keep our feet to the fire here and continue to aggressively recruit,” Sullivan said.
The annual constable salary ranges from about $47,000 for a first-year recruit to $87,000 for a constable with 25 or more years, according to the RNC’s recruiting webpage.
Rules for the hiring of experienced officers vary in other Canadian police forces.
For example, the RCMP — which currently states on its recruitment website it is not accepting applicants in that area — has a five-week orientation program at the training depot in Regina for experienced Canadian police officers, including Canadian Forces military police. Basic requirements include two years’ policing experience.
Calgary’s police force, according to its website, also requires two-years’ experience from other police officers. They must also pass a selection process that includes physical and psychological testing and take part in an eight-week certification and orientation program, which is followed by a 12-week field training phase.
The Halifax police force states eligible experienced officers don’t have to attend formal training, but must participate in a five-week recertification and orientation program.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) also has an experienced officer program that requires two-years’ experience.
Officers from outside Canada are not eligible, according to the OPP website, but those from other provinces will have their training and accreditation reviewed on a case-by-case basis.