10/05/2007

Canadian recruits being used for two-man car system

BY GLENN KAUTH
The Edmonton Sun

EDMONTON, Alberta — City police are using training recruits to meet their own goal of putting two officers in patrol cars - a move the cop union is criticizing.

"It was always the understanding that a recruit wasn't considered to be in a two-man car until he had completed his training," said the head of the Edmonton Police Association, Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff.

FALLING SHORT

Under a new policing model unveiled earlier this year, cops vowed to ensure 40% of the cruisers on the streets had two officers in them. Even with the training recruits, police are still falling short, however.

So far, only 35% of police patrol cars have two officers, said Staff Sgt. Ed Keller, the project manager for the new deployment model.

"They found it extremely difficult to meet that ratio," said Ratcliff, who argued that including recruits is a way of boosting the numbers.

The police union has long fought for two-cop cars as a way of increasing officer safety. Ratcliff noted an extra officer can also act as a witness when a suspect challenges police.

Keller, though, said that including new recruits in the statistics has no bearing on the level of assistance people get when they call police.

"We still realize that that's a training unit (and) that one person in that car has less experience," he said, noting police dispatchers will assess how much time on the job an officer has had in order to determine which car should go out to an incident.

Keller added police have been making progress towards the 40% goal, with the number of two-officer cars increasing in recent months. And while he acknowledged that recruits have less experience, he said they're still doing police work as they learn on the job.

"They are out there. They are completing reports. They are adding value," he said.

CONTINUING STRUGGLE

For Ratcliff, the continuing struggle to get more officers in cruisers is further proof of the shortage of cops in Edmonton. With retirements and resignations, city police have lost 100 officers this year, he said.

Keller, though, said counting recruits in patrol cars is simply a reflection of police efforts to replace departing officers. "Quite frankly, we're going to be in that cycle. We're going to be continuously training new people." 

Copyright 2007 Sun Media Corporation
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