The number of city police officers leaving the force stayed stagnant in 2020, but the president of the local union is warning of a potential increase in departures moving forward.
The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) saw 71 sworn employees, or three per cent of the force when not including senior ranking members, leave in 2020. The departures included 44 retirements and 24 resignations, states an EPS report presented to the Edmonton Police Commission in March.
Darren Eastcott, executive director of the Edmonton Police Service human resources division, said the department’s attrition rate for officers has been static for the past decade. He said he actually expected the number to drop in 2020 with a downturn in the economy resulting in fewer jobs for officers to move into.
EPS saw 55 sworn members leave in 2019 and 66 sworn members leave in 2018.
“Usually when the economy is really strong and there’s other jobs out there, because a lot of our members after 25 years they’re still very marketable, they go on to other work areas,” said Eastcott. “I actually anticipated it to go down a little bit and it didn’t, it stayed about the same.”
A deputy chief, two superintendents, one inspector, nine staff sergeants, 12 detectives, nine sergeants and 10 constables retired while all 24 resignations were constables. Nine of those constables left for other police departments while one took a job outside of policing and nine said they were not suited for policing. Five resigned for personal reasons that they did not disclose.
While the attrition rate was stagnant in 2020, Mike Elliott, president of the Edmonton Police Association, said he has heard from several members who have accessed support services in the past year. He said that after a year that saw officers working during a worldwide pandemic as well as global outcry to defund police services after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in the United States, by a police officer, some Edmonton members are looking for other work.
“I do foresee those percentages increasing,” said Elliott. “If things stay the way they are, I do foresee us having a more difficult time to fill classes and and, on the flip side, you’re going to see more people leaving or seeking employment elsewhere.”
Elliott said that he believes the attrition rate may have rose last year if the economy was in a better place. He also noted officers may be waiting out the last few years before they can receive a pension.
“I think people are saying, why would I want to take on a profession that is criticized for almost everything that you do, and so I think that’s what’s affecting the ability to retain and hire new people. I think it’s an accumulation of everything,” said Elliott.
Eastcott said the department hasn’t seen that drop in interest yet. He said EPS cancelled one recruiting class in 2020 for financial reasons but the first recruit class of 2021 is currently being filled.
“I really believe that the police service are truly professional people, we train them well, we support them well and they do a very, very good job,” said Eastcott. “I still go back and look at the training and the support and the professional people we hire, I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been able to hang on to people.”