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New West police department has lost six officers to RCMP so far in 2024

"Aggressive" recruiting by RCMP, Surrey Police transition and training of new recruits at JIBC all impacting the New Westminster Police Department's ability to hire new officers.
The New Westminster Police Department has lost six officers to the RCMP in January and February 2024.

The New Westminster Police Department has seen a surge of members leaving to don the RCMP serge so far in 2024.

Chief Const. Dave Jansen said the NWPD is “seeing another surge” of experienced officers leaving the organization, for various reasons. He said officers who are leaving for the RCMP are mainly doing so because of its tenure options.

At February’s police board meeting, Jansen explained that municipal police departments, including New Westminster, have tenure in all positions for their sworn members. This means officers can only work in specialty units for a certain length of time.

“The RCMP does not have that,” he said. “So we have seen a surge in individuals going to the RCMP. So far this year we have lost six members to the RCMP, strictly for that reason – their opportunity to stay in a specialty spot throughout their career, rather than have to be moved around.”

Jansen noted the six officers lost to the RCMP in the first two months of 2024 compares to seven officers who left in all of 2023.( Four went to the RCMP, one went to the Vancouver Police Department and one was terminated.)

“I think it’s just another one of those blips that we are going to see,” he said. “We are still, on the sworn members’ side, fully staffed, but we have a lot of folks who are training in different things and can’t be fully deployed.”

At its February meeting, the police board received a 2024 human resources report written by Deputy Chief Const. Paul Hyland.

The report included information about various HR aspects of the police department, including the status of the NWPD’s 154 sworn members and staffing demographics.

Jansen said he suspects the New Westminster Police Department is at “another one of those peaks” where it is going to see a lot of staff turnover.

“So that does obviously impact some of the things that we would like to do when it comes to recruiting,” he said. “We have to go with what we have and get the best candidates obviously. We are not going to lower our standards. So that just makes it a little bit more challenging.”

According to the report, 2023 was another “very dynamic year” for recruitment and retention of police officers. It stated that “sworn member attrition” totalled six in 2023, which was down from 13 in 2022.

“The current challenge being faced regarding the RCMP is their aggressive recruiting of experienced members,” said the report. “Due to significant RCMP vacancies, they are offering experienced members’ choice of detachment or specialty position.”

Of the four members who left in 2023 to join the RCMP, the NWPD report stated two had moved to detachments outside of the Lower Mainland (citing cost of living concerns), while one remained in their current seconded position with the LMD Emergency Response Team, having been promised unlimited tenure in their position.

The New Westminster Police Department didn’t lose any officers to retirement in 2023, but anticipates “a number” in 2024, which will create staffing challenges, continued the report.

Recruiting challenges – including aggressive recruiting

The police department has noticed “continued competitiveness” in the hiring of experienced officers and recruits – and anticipates that will continue into 2024.

“On the positive side, we continue to see the NWPD as a police employer of choice, both at recruit and experienced member positions,” said the report. “In 2023, we hired 15 sworn members, including 11 recruits and four experienced members.”

The report stated the New Westminster Police Department anticipates it will encounter some of the same staffing and recruiting challenges this year that it experienced last year. This includes:

  • Aggressive recruiting campaigns by all police agencies for recruits and experienced officers because most, if not all, have significant vacancies to fill.
  • The transition to the Surrey Police Service is anticipated to “continue to create a vacuum of qualified applicants” – creating a “buyer’s market” for applicants (both experienced officers and recruits) as all police agencies are seeking officers to fill current vacancies.
  • The number of recruits being trained at the Police Academy at the Justice Institute of BC. It’s currently slated to run three recruit classes per year of 64 recruits each, totalling 192 annually.

“Recent projections have indicated that over the next three years, the Police Academy needs to put through 300-plus recruits annually to keep pace with vacancies and attrition for municipal agencies,” said the report. “Currently we (New West) have been averaging four seats per class, which is the bare minimum for us to continue to maintain staffing levels.

According to the staff report, the NWPD’s recruiting team anticipates hiring 12 to14 recruits based on anticipated attrition.

“This is a bit of a moving figure as we are unable to accurately predict attrition to other police agencies,” said the report. “Again, the challenge that we face is the fact it takes a new recruit about 10 months to complete their Police Academy training and become fully operational. Given this, unanticipated vacancies are often filled by bringing on experience members who can begin working operationally much quicker.”