10/15/2012 05:56 EDT | Updated 12/15/2012 05:12 EST

Police chief says new hires needed to maintain staffing

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair wants to start hiring officers again so that staffing levels can be maintained in the years ahead.

"As we continue through this year, we’re going to continue to see attrition. People will retire and resign from the service over the next several months," Blair told reporters Monday.

"And so I believe it’s necessary to put recruits in the college to graduate next spring, so that we don’t face an even more significant reduction in staffing for next summer."

Blair said an ongoing hiring freeze has resulted in a decline in the number of officers serving the city, a trend that will continue unless the service can start hiring again.

"If we resume hiring, we’ll be able to stay close to that reduced staffing level of 5,400 officers, which is reduced from the 5,604 that we’ve had previously authorized," he said.

Blair said the police service has found ways of reducing the number of officers it employs, in part by having civilian employees take on selected tasks that full officers previously handled.

"But we have committed to maintaining police officers on the street," Blair said, which is why he believes that staffing levels must be upheld.