Guelph police Chief Gord Cobey marks 1 year amid massive hiring spree

Gord Cobey is marking his one-year anniversary as Guelph’s police chief amid a massive hiring spree that will see 30 new officers and civilian employees added to the service.

His first year as the Royal City’s top cop was highlighted by a plan to spend $4.1 million more than the previous year for a total budget of about $46 million.

“I think our members really appreciate the investment the community has made in the service to get more resources because our members want to provide a level of service that the community wants and deserves,” he said.

The chief has repeatedly argued that the service has not been in a position to meet the needs of the community. He points to statistics that show Guelph is near the bottom of policing investment among comparable municipalities in Ontario.

But he said there has to be a balance when it comes to spending taxpayer money.

“We’ve tried to be responsible, but not being disrespectful or forgetful with just how big of an investment that was,” Cobey said while praising city council for voting in favour of the spending plan in December.

The task to hire new officers, which has already begun, is not a small one and Cobey said he, along with the community, will have to manage expectations at first.

Applicants have to go through a meticulous evaluation process, attend the 13-week program at the Ontario Police College and then receive further training from Guelph police.

“The realization of that investment is probably nine to 12 months,” he said noting the police will likely be filling close to 40 positions due to members retiring.

But how will Cobey know if the plan is working?

The service wants to reduce certain numbers, such as the $2 million paid out in overtime last year, the number of officers off-duty sick, and response times.

But Cobey said the intangible question is, “Does the community feel safe?”

“We’ll know — whether it be six months, 12 months or 18 months — we should see the gauge move, not only with the metrics but how the community feels about safety,” he said.

One of the biggest issues facing Guelph continues to be downtown safety and Cobey said it’s something that crosses his desk on a daily basis.

Guelph has already seen two murders in its downtown core so far this year.

While arrests have been made in each investigation, the deaths are notable considering Guelph’s last homicide investigation was in July 2017.

Cobey wouldn’t comment on the two matters but offered his condolences to the families of Mario Ruffolo and Nick Tanti.

He also hinted at an upcoming announcement regarding downtown policing.

“The public can expect a significant increase in our visibility and our engagement in our dialogue with our downtown to make sure we understand and respond to what we’re learning from our downtown community,” he said. “We still live in a very safe community, but in addition to living in a safe community, people want to feel safe and our residents, business owners and visitors to the downtown — they want to feel safe.”

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