Union for RCMP 911 operators calls for recruitment plan to address staff shortages
By Stephanie Taylor
The union that represents the RCMP’s emergency dispatchers and operators is calling on the force to come up with a recruitment plan to fix worsening staff shortages.
CUPE Local 104 president Kathleen Hippern said hundreds of people are off on long-term sick leave and knows of many more who are looking for an exit.
“We’re so understaffed,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
When someone dials 911 and asks for police, Hippern said their members take the call and gather the information officers need to know before heading to a scene.
“Police are not moving until one of us answers that call.”
Hippern said that few centres are fully staffed, specifying that in Nova Scotia, staffing is only at about 50 per cent.
She said morale is “abysmal” and she believes the lack of staff is affecting public safety by leaving callers sometimes waiting for minutes before someone is able to answer.
“I’m terrified for any of my family members that have to call 911.”
The RCMP generally has been struggling to fill its vacancies for years, with hiring and training efforts also hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic recently.
The president of the National Police Federation, which represents RCMP officers, recently said some of the problem stems from the fact that people are applying to join the force at a slightly older age and members are retiring earlier.
As the force prepares to mark its 150th anniversary next month, Hippern said it needs a strong recruitment strategy.
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