By being first out of the gate with financial recruitment incentives, Timmins Police is hoping to gain an edge in hiring new officers.
Today, the details of the much-anticipated recruitment plan for the municipal police service were unveiled. It includes a $30,000 incentive for experienced officers to join by May. For new recruits, the service will pay for the Ontario Police College tuition after an officer has successfully completed the 12-plus week program.
There are also retention incentives for existing staff, though the details of that deal are not public yet.
Currently, the service has about 80 officers, which includes all people in uniform from constables to the chief.
While the Timmins Police Service is approved for a full complement of 96 officers, they've yet to reach 90 officers.
“That’s one of the things that we looked at as a board is how we keep increasing this number and we finally reached a point where no, we need to achieve this number other than it naturally happening,” said Kraymr Grenke, Timmins Police Services Board chair.
People signing on to the experienced officer program and tuition incentive have to commit to at least five years with the service.
The experienced officer program offers a $30,000 recruitment incentive for all officers with at least three years of experience from a recognized Canadian police service who apply and join the Timmins Police from March 7 to May 15, 2023. Timmins Police is aiming to attract eight to 12 officers through it.
“This clearly shows a commitment by the board to enhance community safety and improve our presence in the community. This is truly a first of its kind in Ontario and it’s a great investment by the city in terms of community safety,” said Chief Dan Foy.
For new officers who join the Timmins Police between March 7, 2023, and Dec. 21, 2024, if they graduate from OPC in 2023 or 2024, they will receive a one-time payment equal to their OPC tuition fees. Tuition fees for the course that runs 12-13 weeks, said Foy, is around $15,500.
The cost of the incentive program is in the Timmins Police Service's 2023 budget that has been submitted to Timmins council, but has not been approved yet.
“We have included a big portion of the funds that would be required for this program to be in the budget already, though we do have normally reserve funds as well that fluctuate year to year that we would tap into if we get all 12 (officers), for example,” he said.
Talking to people on the street, Foy said there are people who want to go into policing but don't because of the financial barriers.
"There’s never been a better time to become a police officer because we’re there to help, we’re there to help people join a very rewarding career. I’ve been a police officer for 28 years and there’s a lot of rewarding things that we take part in, whether it’s helping people, whether it’s making our community safe in terms of traffic or other things that we do. We want people who have considered policing to give us a call and we want them to know that we’re there to help them enter a profession that they wanted to do for a long time,” he said.
The police board and the Timmins Police Association also have letters of understanding for retaining existing staff.
"The communication piece of how that is going to play out with the actual staff members is due to be out this week,” said Grenke.
While he didn't get into the specifics of the retention plan yet, he said each officer will have a choice of making a commitment for service for a cash incentive. The board has also been talking about how to retain some of the people scheduled to retire this year.
“We’ve had those discussions on, we can’t lose all three people at the same time, how do we make sure this functions properly so we don’t leave a gap on patrol and then we can maintain our complement on the road level as well,” Grenke said.
He said the board isn't just throwing money at the problem.
“We have heard from through the association, through administration, (that) getting people on the frontline is one of the biggest things — that’s the reason for the recruitment. And keeping our members on the front line as well. Ultimately we want to get more officers on the road as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Grenke.
The local incentives are based on what the Prince Albert Police Service is doing in Saskatchewan.
That rural police service is offering a $25,000 incentive for the next four experienced officers hired.
The local board is prepared if other Ontario services start to offer similar programs.
Right now, he said policing in general is seeing a shortage of frontline officers.
"We see that with intakes that are happening at the Ontario Police College, they’re not as full as they used to be. This a program that the board has put forward to ensure that we are one step above everyone else right now, you know we’re first out of the gate on this program and we’re ready to welcome people to our organization.
"I wouldn’t say this is our last resort, this is us moving in a different direction understanding that our community needs to look at public safety differently and to get officers on the frontline back on walking the beat downtown. We’ve heard this from our community members and the board is looking to provide that as best we can,” Grenke said.