London Police Service wants to hire 52 new officers, citing 'unprecedented demand'
Pace of work is not sustainable for officers who are feeling its impacts, says police chief
The London Police Service has gotten approval from the board that oversees its work to add 52 new front-line police constables to its force in order to address longer response times.
The recommendation, made by Chief Steve Williams, comes after an unprecedented demand for police services in 2021 which forced other units to be redeployed to do front-line duties, Williams said in a statement.
"While a year-over-year increase in dispatched calls for service was not deemed to be a significant workload factor, the nature of front police work has evolved. Simply put, calls for service are more complex and of increased severity," he said.
Calls now involve more complex investigations and people are more volatile than officers have seen in the past, Williams said. This creates more responsibilities for officers, which impacts their service to the community, he said.
"The pace of work is not sustainable for our officers who are feeling the impacts," he added.
The addition of officers would allow for improved response times for victims and the vulnerable, restore a manageable workload for front-line staff, and allow for proactive policing with a focus on crime prevention, London police say. The funding request still needs to be approved by London city council.
Complex factors adding to long response times
Board Chair Susan Toth said calls include complex factors like addiction and mental health crises, which require attention and investment of time, and ultimately adds to long response times.
"It is to the detriment of our officers and the community when instead, police are rushed, wait times increase, and calls for service become backlogged," she said.
The police services board has heard heartbreaking stories from the public about long response times, from small business owners dealing with break-ins to women reporting assault, Toth said.
"The theme is clear: response times are not meeting our community's needs," she said, adding that officers are also witnessing more violence and the use of weapons.
Although the board signs off on the budget to allow for new hires, it must ultimately be approved by London city council.