Of the additional 58 police positions promised by the mayor as part of his re-election platform, 18 are destined for General Patrol, commonly referred to within the Service as GP. GP officers are the uniformed officers assigned to work marked patrol units. When citizens call 986-6222 or 911, GP officers are the ones who respond to their calls for service.
Media reports have indicated that the 18 positions being added to GP will produce “another shift” . The implication of that is rather misleading but up to this point I have not heard either politicians or the Police Service saying anything to correct the misconception or explain the actual effect of adding 18 officers.
Here’s how it works:
The Police Service currently fields a minimum of 27 2-officer patrol units at the start of each shift, 365 days a year. This means that the day shift starts with 27 units, as does evening shift and midnight shift. The reason the term ‘minimum’ is used relates directly back to the wording in the Collective Agreement between the Winnipeg Police Service and the City. The minimum number of units the Police Service puts out on the street forms part of the collective agreement. The Service can field more than 27 units if personnel are available but it cannot field less. Starting a shift with less than 27 2-officer units would violate the collective agreement.
So, how many police officers does it take to field one additional 2-officer unit? The answer is 18.
The 18:1 ratio
Prior to the mid-1990’s the Police Service used a rather loose calculation to determine how many officers were required to field one unit 365 days a year. The commonly used ratio was in the 14:1 range with an allowance for additional personnel in Divisions 11 (downtown) and 13 (north-end), based on workload. The problem identified by Uniform Division Commanders operating under the 14:1 ratio was that they could not field the required number of patrol units unless they drew resources from other areas such as Traffic, Community Constables, plain clothes units or called out off duty personnel at overtime rates.
Around 1995 a couple of newly promoted Superintendents decided to have a look at the ratio being used. This review resulted in a report being submitted to the Executive of the day recommending that the ratio be changed to 18:1, which it was.
That perhaps makes it easier to understand why the Mayor picked the number 18.
Eighteen additional GP officers translates into 1 additional patrol unit.
That’s 1 additional unit, not “another shift”.
In a future post I will examine why it takes 18 officers to staff one patrol unit.