A new poll looking at Toronto’s views on police and public safety suggests that Torontonians are mostly supportive of the police chief but not as approving as chiefs of the past.
The survey of 814 Torontonians found that 69 per cent of Toronto residents approve of how Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has performed in his role in the last year.
Despite the seemingly high approval rate, DART Insight and Communications CEO John Wright said it isn’t all that impressive when compared with past data.
According to the poll, the score actually places Saunders as the lowest rated chief in 18 years when compared to his last three predecessors.
“It sounds pretty high but the reality is when you take a look back 18 years you’re finding that Chief Boothby, Chief Blair, Chief Fantino were all much higher, in fact as much as 80 per cent,” Wright told CP24 on Thursday.
“But that’s not to say that they will stay there. They all have different styles. Mr. Fantino actually went out on a much lower level but you have to take a look at this and say the style is such that the chief is fairly reserved… I think he’s not as connected with the public as you’ve seen previous chiefs be.”
But Wright said the poll response may in fact reflect a more “administrative” chief who’s not “rushing to the scene.”
“This is a comparison to where he is, so he could end up much higher in the next year,” he said.
“But this is a political appointment. It goes through political members who are on the services board, all that sort of stuff. It is the face of the Toronto Police Service. It’s a politician’s job as much as it was anyone else’s, and it just seems he’s uncomfortable with that.”
The poll went on to ask respondents their opinions on a number of public safety related topics including neighbourhood safety, preparation for terror attacks and police interaction with the public.
Sixty-one per cent of Torontonians said they would “be scared” if they were pulled over for no apparent reason. Of those, the sentiment is highest among North York residents (65 per cent), Etobicoke residents (61 per cent) and downtowners (60 per cent.)
Scarborough trailed slightly behind at 58 per cent.
The majority of those who said they’d be scared if pulled over by officers for no apparent reason were between 18 and 34 years old.
Fifty-two per cent of those who said they would not be scared were 55 years and older.
“We did ask this question many years ago and we found that 35 per cent were frightened about being pulled over by the cops and now it’s six in 10. I think a lot of it has to do with social media. We didn’t have tablets 10 years ago but now it’s everywhere, so I think there’s that concern there,” Wright said.
“It’s also the consequence of individual action. Even going back as far as the G20 – when police are involved in circumstances what’s the consequential outcome? It doesn’t seem like much. It seems like they have their own set of rules, but there are a lot of cops out there that the people really appreciate.”
The poll also found that 54 per cent of Torontonians believe that most Toronto police officers ignore infractions committed by fellow officers – on or off duty.
Forty-four per cent said they believe that Toronto police “unfairly and discriminately racially profile black and dark-skinned Torontonians” while 54 per cent say they believe few or none do.
The poll, which was conducted between Sept. 16 and 19, is accurate within plus or minus 3.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
You can read all the results from the poll here: