Consultant does not recommend cuts to Cape Breton police

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A consultant says the Cape Breton Regional Police force has more officers than most other jurisdictions and is older and more male than the Canadian average. (CBC - image credit)
A consultant says the Cape Breton Regional Police force has more officers than most other jurisdictions and is older and more male than the Canadian average. (CBC - image credit)

A wide-ranging review of Cape Breton Regional Municipality's police service found the force has more officers than comparable communities, but the consultant who conducted the review is not calling for cuts.

The study also says Cape Breton officers are older and fewer are female compared to the Canadian average.

Robert Taylor, vice-president of Perivale and Taylor Consulting, told CBRM council the review shows CBRM has 200 officers, while other comparable locations have 170.

Asked if he was recommending cuts, Taylor said that's up to council.

"Where you go from there, I'm not sure," he said. "It's about the level of service that you wish to provide to your residents and it's about efficiencies … What level of service do we wish to provide and what is the long-term ability of the municipality to pay for policing?

"And that's not an answer, I know, it's an explanation that every council faces, and there is no right answer."

38 recommendations

The review came up with 38 recommendations, including the addition of civilian support staff and further training for all staff on the municipality's computer assisted dispatch system.

Taylor said that training would help CBRM staff and police managers gather and analyze data that would help make better decisions.

He also suggested police create a third shift and redeploy some officers to provide better coverage during times when data show there are more calls, which could lead to lower overtime costs.

Taylor said the study found that 7.5 per cent of the Cape Breton force's officers are female, compared to the Canadian average of 20 per cent.

He said the force does not collect information on ethnicity, so no conclusions could be drawn about diversity.

Taylor also said 45 per cent of the officers are aged 50 or over, compared to the national average of 18 per cent, and CBRM even has officers over 60.

"It's unusual in policing to have a large cohort over 50 and even more so over 60," he said.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality/Zoom
Cape Breton Regional Municipality/Zoom

Having older staff could account for the high number of officers off on workers compensation or long-term disability claims, Taylor said.

However, he cautioned, the data is at least a year old and the numbers might have changed.

Recently, CBRM's police commission was told the force has had some retirements, hired 10 new constables and cut its absenteeism number in half.

The police review was commissioned last year after a study in 2019 found the force has more officers per capita than other similar-sized communities.

The report was due in November, but was held up by the pandemic.

Council received the report on Wednesday, but took no action on the recommendations.

Instead, councillors voted unanimously to refer the consultant's report to staff for an issue paper and to the police commission and the chief for further review.

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