Nearly 100 Edmonton Police Service officers either left the force or announced plans to do so last year, a notable increase over previous years.
As of Dec. 14, 2022, 50 officers had resigned and 47 had announced their retirement, according to a report going to city council on March 14. EPS had projected total attrition of 60 sworn members for 2022, which is about the average number of officers who left the force in each of the previous five years.
The attrition rate of about 5% in 2022 is the first time the metric has hit the service's established "risk appetite" of less than or equal to 5% since 2014, when EPS saw a total of 78 sworn members leave the force.
As is often the case, some of the departing officers went to other police services across Canada to be closer to family, and some retired outright. But others resigned "citing a negative political environment that made the job less enjoyable," EPS spokesperson Aubrey Zalaski told Taproot. "EPS works at the very front lines of crime and social disorder and our people are not immune to the pressures that all front line workers have felt in recent years."
The service expects that attrition will remain similarly high in 2023. (Zalaski offered slightly different numbers for 2022 from those in the report to council, citing a total of 98 departures.)
Partly as a result of the larger-than-expected number of departures, preliminary figures show that EPS spent roughly $378 million on salary and benefits in 2022, about 1.5% less than budgeted. EPS currently has 2,014 sworn members, up from 1,968 as of 2021.
The service had flagged an aging workforce as a key human resources challenge in its 2013-2015 strategic plan. "The EPS must continue to invest in recruitment, retention, and training to attract, develop, and retain the best employees," the plan said.
A lack of diversity in the service has been also been a focus in recent years. One of the five goals in the service's 2023-2026 strategic plan is to "support and grow diverse talents" by measuring factors such as employee turnover, engagement, and satisfaction, as well as the percentage of employees who are women, racialized, or Indigenous.
EPS has seen some success in its efforts to become more diverse and inclusive, with more than 60% of new recruits over the past three years identifying as Indigenous, people of colour, or gender or sexually diverse. According to its 2021 annual report, about 20% of officers in the service's senior ranks are women. EPS currently has more than 410 female officers.
Efforts to grow the overall pool of applicants appear to have been less successful.
In 2016, EPS added an additional recruit class, bringing its annual total to four. It has launched several programs aimed at boosting recruitment since, including the Women in Policing initiative in 2017 and the Experienced Officer Program in 2021, a relaunch of an initiative first established in 2002 that was paused in 2018.
While the number of applications received each year has been trending downward for two decades, it has stabilized somewhat in recent years. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have disrupted that stability, however, with applications falling from 703 in 2019 to just 410 in 2021, the lowest number since 2010, when EPS received 405 applications.
"There is no question that recruiting has become more competitive, but we have an ambitious recruiting strategy to attract a strong pool of applicants from which to choose recruits," Zalaski said.
The service recently established an executive director of human resources and split its human resources division (which has more than 150 employees) into two, with one focused on human resources and the other focused on training, development, and recruiting. EPS has also begun work on its next HR strategy for 2025 to 2028.