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New troops for London
By John Intini
London's wannabe cops are getting closer to becoming the real thing, since a request by London's Police Chief Al Gramolini has been honored by the Ontario Police College.
Over the summer, Gramolini placed a request with the college to open approximately 20 course positions for London police recruits. On Tuesday, Gramolini learned the OPC approved the allocation of 15 openings.
According to the college's director Noreen Alleyne, it is a recent request withdrawal by another major Ontario police force which has paved the way for Gramolini's request.
"We base our decision regarding the allocation of recruits on the size of the force," Alleyne said. "When a major force recently withdrew it's request for 20 officers we were able to allocate the openings across the board and the London force benefited. We still have the same number of students in our classes."
Fifteen recruits would be more than double the most recent enrollment in the college's tri-annual training session. In the current session, which began in July, only seven were slotted for London assignments.
Gramolini was pleased to hear the LPD would receive re-inforcements. He said the addition of new officers will surely improve the service to London residents, increase officer safety and allow them to better handle the present demand.
"We have a 911 emergency line. On average I'm running 10,000 calls a month," he said. "I am not answering 1,000 of those calls because I don't have police officers in cars to go and do it."
Gramolini also noted the importance of officer safety, stating the increase in staff would help in part to solve the present problem. "If you have 20 beats out there and 10 of them are short, that means 10 officers don't have back-up."
Michele Bailey, chair of the London Police Service's Board, said officers want to go to a pro-active station which allows them to do work solving cases and not simply responding to calls. Understaffing is not conducive to this style of policing, she said.
According to Insp. Rob Brown, head of recruiting and training with the London police, there are presently 427 officers on the London force. In addition to the 15 which will complete the intensive 12 week training session and be ready to join the force early in the new year, seven officers will join the force in October. However, even with the increase, the staff will still be 12 officers from their budgeted complement of 461.
Bailey said even the addition of these young officers do not completely fill the void. "We still don't have enough officers," she said. "The important thing to remember is that these officers are right out of college and still have to work with another officer for a while. It's not like we're getting experienced front-line officers," she said.
Brown on the other hand, remained optimistic about the new police. "The addition will help throughout the whole service," he said, adding he was keen on getting students at the university level interested in looking into a career in law enforcement.