News / Edmonton

Hospital wait times costing Edmonton police in manpower and dollars

Edmonton police are spending significant time waiting in area hospitals and it is costing the force financially and in manpower on the streets, according to numbers presented at the police commission Thursday night.

From Aug. 2 to Nov. 2, officers spent a 1,500 hours and had 390 visits to hospitals guarding while waiting for detainees, costing the police force about $100,678 or $1,100 a day.

“That’s four police officers that we could have extra in terms of the dollar value and those officers are tied up. They’re highly trained individuals and they’re best used on the street, patrolling, looking for bad guys,” said Deputy Chief Brian Simpson, with EPS.

Since the wait time tracking process over the three months was voluntary, officials say these figures are the minimum amount of hours officers spent at hospitals.

“I personally was astounded by the magnitude of the situation,” said Joanne Graham, director of Business Intelligence Competency Centre with EPS at the Edmonton Police Commission meeting Thursday.

Officials say the biggest concern with the numbers is that 54 per cent of the hours and 63 per cent of the activities dealt with the Mental Health Act.

“Mental health is an issue we deal with all the time. We see that in other areas so once that number was pointed out to us, it wasn’t a surprise, just the actual volume of it —63 per cent— was,” said Simpson.

The officer wait time issue is a concern with police agencies across Canada and the United States, said Graham, with many having significant resource impacts due to officers being held up in hospitals with detainees.

Police are continuing discussions with hospitals and looking at solutions for the officer problem.

“The whole goal of this is to have discussions and to look at options to get ourselves to a better place, to get our clients to a better place and also service the community,” said Simpson.

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