A shortage of sheriffs is forcing Edmonton police officers to continue escorting prisoners to the new remand centre on the city’s north side.

On Monday, Police Chief Rod Knecht asked council to pay for eight additional officers to handle these transfers.

“I think the taxpayer would be better served if those individuals were out on the street,” he said.

While prisoner transfer is a municipal responsibility, the province has offered to help out once it has overcome a shortage of sheriffs.

Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis says there are currently 50 sheriff vacancies in the province because many are getting new jobs with the RCMP and police services in Edmonton and Calgary.

“They simply do a good job,” Denis said.

About 70 new sheriffs were trained this year. While Denis is putting through two additional classes next year, with the first starting in January, he plans to do more.

“Moving forward we do want to recruit more sheriffs and I've asked our department to look at more ways that we could do that,” he said.

Once the sheriffs are trained, he is willing to consider Knecht’s request to have them handle the prisoner transfers.