A trio of changes to police training requirements and funding have received a favourable response from Greater Sudbury police Chief Paul Pedersen.
Included in the changes are:
- A previously-proposed requirement that police recruits have post-secondary education prior to entering Ontario Police College has been cancelled
- Tuition to Ontario Police College (approximately $15,450) will be free retroactive to January 2023
- The province is adding 140 new recruits at the Ontario Police College this year, and another 420 by the end of next year
The post-secondary requirement was flagged by Greater Sudbury police board member Gerry Lougheed during last week’s meeting, at which he expressed disagreement with the province’s change of course.
“I think policing should be a university degree because of the Charter, because of DNA, because of vigorous defence lawyers in terms of their approach to courts,” he said. “Having a degree in policing, you’re likely to get a better quality of police officer to deal with the realities of 2023 moving forward.”
Although he clarified GSPS is “very thorough” in their screening, he urged Pedersen to advocate in favour of an enhanced post-secondary requirement with provincial officials.
“Duly noted,” Pedersen told Lougheed.
In conversation with Sudbury.com, it doesn’t appear as though Pedersen will be furthering Lougheed’s point of advocacy.
“Post-secondary education on an application is something that’s considered to have value, but it’s not the only thing considered to have value,” Pedersen said. “We’d hate to see it be a barrier to an otherwise great police officer who can do some great work in our community.”
Pedersen added that they strive to create a system that doesn’t put up barriers, and that although they’re “always looking for critical thinkers, problem solvers and cultural competence,” these skills don’t exclusively come from graduates of post-secondary institutions.
The post-secondary education requirement was passed by the provincial legislature in 2019 as part of the Community Safety and Policing Act, but associated legislation has not passed. The province has indicated this requirement will be removed.
Although not in favour of adding a post-secondary education requirement, Pedersen said training at GSPS remains ongoing throughout officers’ careers.
“The continual professional development that spans everything from cultural competence training to specific training in use of force and training in criminal investigations — there’s a lot of room for growth and improvement,” he said.
“Knowing that the community is always changing, the demands on police are always changing, crimes are always changing, the need for ongoing training and ongoing professional development is acute.”
While doing away with Ontario Police College tuition will help eliminate a financial barrier for applicants, Pedersen said the change doesn’t carry too much relevance locally, where they’ve always come up with enough viable candidates.
“We never know why people haven’t applied,” he said. “It may very well be that one of the barriers to application is the cost of going to police college.”
The boost in available positions at the Ontario Police College carries more relevance locally, due in part to the GSPS plan to hire 24 police officers in the next three years.
This year’s approved allotment of 10 new sworn members is well underway, Pedersen said, noting that five of them are currently at Ontario Police College.
“As a chief of police, the more openings that are down there the easier it is to fill (positions).”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.