Police chief says officers are 'stretched to the limit,' force desperately needs new recruits

In a wide-ranging interview, Waterloo Regional Police Services Chief Bryan Larkin discusses the need for a budget increase, the need for more officers and his thoughts on the police misconduct we've seen.

Bryan Larkin discusses his thoughts on budget increases and police misconduct

Waterloo regional police chief Bryan Larkin says the force needs an extra 47 officers for 2019. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

The Waterloo Regional Police Service has been vocal about asking the region for more money in its latest annual budget request. In December, the force asked the police services board to approve a budget increase of $10 million, which is approximately five per cent — bringing the total budget to almost $170 million. 

This police budget increase, which would be the biggest since 2013, is mainly to hire an additional 47 officers in 2019 to meet growing demands. 

In an interview on CBC KW's Morning Edition, police chief Bryan Larkin shares his thoughts on the need for more officers. 

'Stretched to the limit' 

"I'm not an alarmist but the reality is we've had three years of violent crime increases," Larkin said. 

"We're seeing crime patterns, crime trends, the opioid crisis impacting our resources...if we don't act now from a recruiting perspective and getting people geared up and into our system, they'll be challenges," he said. 

"The provincial government has infused a significant amount of funding into the City of Toronto; well guess what... when that happens, we displaced crime out of the Greater Toronto Area and we're part of that," Larkin said.  

"They're stretched to the limit, their workload demands, the criminal cases they're carrying is a challenge."

Larkin says it takes 18 months to fully train a new police officer and ensure they're "up to the complex world" of policing. 

He says a part of the problem is finding enough officers to replace those who are retiring. In the Region of Waterloo, approximately 30 officers will retire this year. 

"Every year we see officers in our region retire and that's a trend we'll see in the next few years," he said. "Rightfully so... they've served their community well... [but] that's creating some impact."

On police conduct

Last year, a WRPS police officer was charged with sexual assault and a retired officer was charged in connection to a sex crimes investigation in London. Another officer was charged with attempted murder

Larkin says "there's always disappointment when members are involved in misconduct," but there's "a story behind the story." 

"I look at the wellness piece, and what our police officers see everyday... I'm not skirting or making excuses for their conduct, but the reality is we have to look at how we land here," he said. 

Larkin says he hopes that the "legacy" he leaves behind will be focused on improving "diversity, equity, inclusion and changing the culture." 

"We're doing a lot of good work in wellness," he said. "We should be held to a higher account." 

"The sexual misconduct is simply unacceptable, [it] will not be tolerated and we'll continue to take a stern approach." 

In a wide-ranging interview, Waterloo Regional Police Services Chief Bryan Larkin discusses: the force asking to increase its budget this year, the need for more officers and his thoughts on when officers face misconduct allegations. 11:40