P.E.I. an outlier as police forces nationwide struggle with recruitment
Charlottetown Police have seen as many as 100 applications for one position
As police forces nationwide struggle with recruitment, Charlottetown's Deputy police Chief Brad MacConnell says there's no shortage of interest from candidates looking to move to P.E.I.
100 applications for one job
He says he's seen as many as 100 applications for just one position, from across the country and around the world — with candidates citing the low rate of dangerous crime, the reasonable cost of living, and the quality of life as appealing.
"A constant theme is they've come here on vacation, they've experienced our quality of life, they want to relocate here and raise a family," said MacConnell. "I think that speaks volumes for what we are as a province."
According to the Canadian Police Association, there are thousands of vacancies at police forces from coast to coast — the RCMP alone has over 1,000 vacant positions throughout Canada right now.
MacConnell said for most policing organizations, they are up against a distaste for shift work, a negative perception of police officers, and the wide array of other opportunities available for young people.
"I can tell you it's become very challenging for a lot of agencies," he said.
"Becoming a police officer is no longer a profession of choice for a lot of young people, that is true in most parts of Canada, and agencies are struggling to find strategic ways to recruit."
P.E.I. 'a very lucky place to be posted'
Sgt. Leanne Butler with the RCMP says even though their officers have limited say on where in Canada they are posted, Prince Edward Island is a coveted assignment.
"I think when people are posted to P.E.I., they are always happy to get here and there are always people looking to come to P.E.I.," Butler said. "So as an officer here it's a very lucky place to be posted."
Butler has spent much of her career on P.E.I., and said it's offered her a close connection with the communities she serves — and said working in a jurisdiction with a generally positive perception of police helps, too.
"You may have a bigger area where they don't know the policemen, they don't trust the police as much," said Butler.
Generally people like the police, they want to know who you are.— RCMP Sgt. Leanne Butler
"But here in P.E.I., I have to say that generally people like the police, they want to know who you are, they want to call you by name, and for me that's been a highlight of my career actually."
Work to be done across Canada
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said it's not hard to understand why a province that hasn't seen a homicide since 2015 could be bucking the national trend — but in most jurisdictions, police forces have work to do to fill vacant positions, and appeal to young people.
"When they have other options that don't include shift work, don't include working in a fish bowl, don't include being second-guessed constantly, sometimes it's better to go look at another sector," said Stamatakis.
He said many forces are turning to social media to get their message out and taking a lighter approach to some of their communications to help expand and modernize the image of a police officer. He said it's also important to get out and be present in communities where people may not have considered policing as a career in the past.
"There's a lot of challenges and we're going to have to continue to be innovative in terms of our recruiting strategy to try to mitigate some of the negatives that go along with policing," Stamatakis said.
"Whether it's good working conditions, the proper supports so people can be resilient as they are doing this challenging work, or making sure they are properly compensated."