The Ontario government said Tuesday it was introducing a number of new measures to boost lagging police recruiting numbers, including eliminating the post-secondary education requirement to be hired as officers and covering the cost of mandatory training.
“We need more police officers on our streets, more boots on the grounds,” Prime Minister Doug Ford told a news conference at the Ontario Police College. He was joined by Attorney General Michael Kerzner and Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw.
Ford said he had heard from heads of various police services, who said they were seeing an increase in major crimes such as car thefts, break-ins and random acts of violence, but were struggling to attract new recruits.
The prime minister also said that today, his government would introduce legislation that would amend the Community Security and Policing Act 2019 so that a high school diploma or its equivalent is “adequate education” to be employed as a police officer. Currently, applicants for many municipal police services require credits of post-secondary education to be considered for officer employment.
The Province will also cover 100 percent of the costs for Basic Police Training at the Ontario Police College. The three month program costs $15,450 and new police officers are required to complete it within six months of being hired.
College enrollment is also being expanded. Starting in 2024, colleges will be able to graduate up to four batches of 550 officers, up from the current three batches of 480 officers.
Demkiw welcomed the changes, saying the Toronto Police had difficulty “keeping up with the increasing demands” of the growing city.
“Like police services across Canada, we work hard to recruit, select, hire and train new police. But it takes time and there are often barriers to getting new officers up and on the road,” he told reporters.
“We need support in recruiting and training and welcome news from the province.”
NDP concerned about ‘easy’ requirements
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Marit Stiles said she was concerned about “streamlining educational requirements”.
“What I hear from the community and from frontline officers themselves is that they want more support and more training, that they have very difficult jobs and they need a lot of skills, including critical thinking, to do their job well,” he said.
City police forces are responsible for hiring police officers, but they are subject to budgets set by local councils, meaning there’s no guarantee there will be a hiring boom, Stiles said.
“I think a lot of cities are going to ask whether or not they have the capacity to do this,” Stiles said.
Kerzner defended eliminating the post-secondary requirement to become an officer.
“I don’t think carrying an arts degree should be a criterion for getting into the Ontario Police College and becoming a cadet,” he said.
“I think it’s our entire life experience that we carry over to our new careers, and I’m thrilled that removing the university or college degree barrier will encourage people who have this life experience to move forward,” said Kerzner.