The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) says both its members and the community want to see an increased police presence across the city.
That's one of the takeaways from consultations, surveys and meetings held by the OPS since May in order to inform their strategic plan and lay the groundwork for next year's police budget.
But one of the people whose input was included in the report said the force shouldn't take that as "blanket" permission to demand more funding and add more staff.
"That's not what we said. What we said [was] we need more resources, we need more police presence where it is needed appropriately," said Sahada Alolo, co-chair with the Ottawa Police Community Equity Council.
"I think we need to be very careful on that," she added. "That is not a blanket statement for more policemen to just come out in uniform and start enforcement."
Ottawa's Police Services Board held a special meeting Friday to discuss the planning and consultation summary, a 15-page document that includes the results of three online surveys, polling and data analysis, and police statistics.
According to the summary, residents consistently expressed a desire for police service that is both different and better.
"There are calls for change and improvement to better reflect and meet the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse community," it reads.
Shootings, hate on the rise
Among the major concerns raised were traffic safety, gender-based violence, hate and bias crimes, and violent incidents.
Ottawa police statistics show a 30 per cent increase in shootings this year over last, with 47 recorded so far in 2023. Traffic complaints and collisions also rose.
Hate- and bias-motivated crimes have jumped by 14 per cent, a trend the report describes as "concerning."
In terms of staffing, police say they "struggle to keep pace," and warn service levels won't improve without more officers on the street.
"It is notable that respondents to the Community Survey also indicate a desire for increased police presence in the city," according to the report.
"Increasing police presence and visibility was the most frequent recommendation in response to several OPS Community Survey questions."
While the survey heard from more than 3,000 respondents, it was neither randomized nor scientific.
Deputy Police Chief Steve Bell says the force will have to hire dozens of new officers in the coming years. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Police told the board on Friday that staff shortages and burnout are the number one concern within the service.
Deputy chief Steve Bell put forward a three-year strategy that included hiring up to 225 new members to keep up with resignations and retirements and another 120 to cover staff going on leave.
He also proposed creating 25 new positions for each of the next three years, for a total of 75 more officers by 2026.
Ottawa city councillors were also surveyed during July as part of police consultations, though only 13 of 24 members completed it.
Equity council looking for action
Alolo said police board chair Gail Beck took part in a roundtable discussion with her group where participants discussed ways to build trust. She called it a "fruitful discussion."
Alolo stressed that while the community feedback appears to show people want more officers, she cautioned against over-policing and intimidation.
"How do we make sure that we are doing policing, not one size fits all where police go in and enforce, but rather identifying the cultural nuances of each community?" she asked.
Sahada Alolo, co-chair of the Community Equity Council of the Ottawa Police Service, said it's important that police response meets the needs of community members. (Jean Delisle/CBC)
Alolo said members of her council told Beck that citizens want to see police as helpers and members of the community, rather than just a uniform that's there to arrest and enforce.
They also stressed the need for appropriate response to mental health calls, and voiced their concerns about the rise in hate incidents. Now, Alolo said, they're waiting for action.
"We are hoping to make sure that we move from just having a strategy on paper to actual implementation."