Bob Herman says possibly losing 11 officers could impact the services delivered by Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service
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Policing in many Northern First Nation communities are about to feel a financial squeeze.
The Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, which services more than 30 First Nation communities in Ontario, could be losing eight per cent of its police force after the federal government announced it would be letting its Office Recruitment Funding expire in March.
The $400 million was established in 2008 as part of the federal government’s tough-on-crime agenda with the intent of recruiting more than 2,000 officers across the country.
But with the loss of that funding, police forces are scrambling to find ways to pay for their additional officers.
NAPS acting chief Bob Herman said the cuts mean layoffs could threaten as many as 11 officers.
“It was a one-time funding that the federal government announced, but I think if you look at the impact of putting more police officers in the communities, especially within the First Nation communities, the government can’t fall back and say this is a one-time funding,” he said.
“They went down this path and they have to seriously look at it and continue the funding. There’s a number of options to us. We would look at attrition within the police service and our deployment. We need those officers. We can’t afford to lose them. Layoffs are an option but I’m not sure we’re there yet.”
Herman argues the cost of renewing the funding over the span of five years isn’t a significant amount for the federal government.
But Herman said there’s a bigger problem on the horizon.
The First Nation Policing program hasn’t had any contributions or increases from the federal government since 2009. NAPS has 150 officers and received $1.2 million from the recruitment fund to cover the salaries of those officers.
Other officers are funded through the province or through other programs offered by the federal government.
But the cuts in funding may force NAPS to look at how they police the First Nation communities.
“The reality is we cannot staff some of our communities now on a 24-7 basis,” he said. “There’s some communities where we don’t have police officers in most communities for days at a time, or even weeks at a time. This is just going to make it much more difficult for us to do it.”
But NAPS isn’t the only police force in this area that’s about to feel some fiscal sting. The Thunder Bay Police Service received between $160,000 to $170,000 to cover the salaries of two first class officers.
With the elimination of the funding, the police service will reduce its 227 uniform officers.
Deputy chief Andy Hay said when two officers retire, they won’t replace the positions.
“We had two officers who were hired as a result of that program and they were put into our beat patrols,” he said.
“What we’ve done is realigned our resources internally so we do not have to cut those beat patrol positions but we will be cutting two other positions internally within the organization to accommodate those two officers staying.”
Hay added that the police service doesn’t have the money in its budget to cover the salaries of two officers and the Police Service Board isn’t recommending an increasing.
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