Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn.

After recently undergoing an independent third-party review of the organization and operations, the Chatham-Kent Police Service wants to act on some of the recommendations of the review report and add 43 full-time new staff over the next four years to be better equipped to fight crime.

Chatham-Kent police Chief Gary Conn will present the organizational and operations report, which was done by the consulting firm Deloitte, to council this Tuesday, in advance of council taking a look at the proposed police multi-year budget coming to council on November 28 for their approval.

Adding staff, both civilian and police officers, will come with a price. The proposed 2024 police budget has a 6.29 percent increase, compared to the year prior. Over the next four years, if approved, the police budget would increase on average by 6.95 percent a year.

Conn said he will use the report’s analysis and recommendations as proof that additional hiring is desperately needed in the next few years.

Conn said looking at other similar municipalities in the province, the police budget increase is the norm. Sarnia recently approved a 10 percent increase in this year’s police budget, Halton approved a 9.6 percent increase and Sudbury approved a 14.3 percent increase.

The police service wants to hire 16 new police officers in the next year.

“The reason being is that we need boots on the ground like yesterday,” Conn said.

The 43 new hires that the police want to hire in the next four years will be a mix of police officers (16), special constables (11), and civilian employees (16).

Police have seen a huge increase in contemporary policing issues, complex social issues, and increasing calls for services, which has increased the overall workload of police officers, Conn said. He added this has resulted in a number of Chatham-Kent police officers struggling as they are experiencing operational burnout, with a number of officers off on sick leave and operational stress injuries. He said these issues were the catalyst for an operational and organizational analysis.

In the past, Conn has presented modest police budgets. Over the last nine years, every year except one, Conn has come at or below council’s direction for an increase to the police budget. In hindsight, Conn said coming in at or below inflation in previous years has resulted in unintended consequences.

“We are now realizing those unintended consequences,” Conn said.

Chatham-Kent has 142 police officers per 100,000 population currently, which is below the provincial average of 174, and the Canadian average of 184 per 100,000 people. The report says the police officer strength has not increased since 2018.

The Deloitte 131-page report and its recommendations were recently approved by the Chatham-Kent Police Services Board.

Chatham-Kent police Deputy Chief Kirk Earley said the Chatham-Kent Police Service is currently a “bare bones” operation, which means the police are completely a reactive service rather than proactive.