More money for Toronto police? Tory intends to increase spending in 2023
In an effort to “keep Toronto safe,” Mayor John Tory says he intends to increase the city’s police spending in 2023.
Speaking at the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) Chief Change of Command ceremony on Dec. 19, Tory said he’s committed to increasing the force’s budget “responsibly” come next year.
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“This year’s police budget is $1.1 billion, reflecting my own and city council’s commitment to ensuring our police have the resources they need,” he said.
“I am committed to ensuring that the budget will be increased in 2023, responsibly, within our limited means, because, simply put, Torontonians are counting on our police service to keep Toronto safe.”
Discussions around safety come after a number of violent attacks in the city in recent months, largely on Toronto’s transit system.
On Dec. 8, 31-year-old Vanessa Kurpiewska was killed in a random attack at High Park Station. In June, a 28-year-old woman died in hospital after she was doused with a flammable substance and set on fire on a bus outside Kipling Station. Two months before that, a 21-year-old international student was shot outside of the entrance to Sherbourne Station and transported to hospital, where he later died. These incidents, and others, prompted an increase in police visibility on the network in the months that followed, which Tory said remains to this day.
A number of recent, high-profile mass shootings have also contributed to a sense of unease; in September, a mass shooting rampage that sprawled the Greater Toronto Area killed three people, including Toronto police constable Andrew Hong. A month later, a 49-year-old soccer referee was gunned down at a sporting facility north of the city in a shooting that saw two others injured. Nearly two weeks ago, on Dec. 18, five members of a Vaughan condo board were fatally shot in their homes.
While the mayor’s office has signaled more information on the proposed increase will be provided in the new year, some activists are calling on Tory to scrap the move, claiming more police funding won’t address the root causes of violence.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, speaks during a press conference while inside Queen’s Park in Toronto, Monday, June 27, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
TPS BUDGET OVER THE YEARS
Across the eight municipal budgets Tory has signed off on in his time in office, police spending has fluctuated – in some years, he’s decreased the budget, or kept it stagnant. In others, he’s increased funding.
Following calls to defund the police after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, city council passed a motion seeking reforms of the city's police department, but rejected a proposed 10 per cent cut to the force's budget. About eight months later, the city approved a 2021 municipal budget that did not offer any increase to TPS’ funding over the year before, freezing it at $1.076B.
Former TPS Chief James Ramer said, at the time, the force was “committed to doing more without asking for more,” and highlighted changes to the force, including an expansion of specialized mental health teams and increased investments in the neighbourhood officer program.
The following year, Tory changed direction and the city approved a 2022 municipal budget that offered $1.1B to the force – a $24.8 million increase over 2021.
At $1.1B, Toronto police’s 2022 budget makes up 7.4 per cent of the city's total operating budget.
Now, Tory believes another “responsible” increase is in order.
'ANY INCREASE IS IRRESPONSIBLE': EXPERT
Beverly Bain, a professor of gender studies at the University of Toronto and organizer of the No Pride in Policing Coalition, told CTV News Toronto that any increase to police funding in Toronto cannot be described as responsible.
“Any increase is irresponsible,” Bain said in an interview. Instead, she is calling on money to be redistributed into community services.
“Police do not protect people,” she said. “Especially racialized people.”
Bain points to the recent death of Taresh Bobby Ramroop as an example of how police interactions can go awry. On Oct. 13, Ramroop fell to his death from the 16th-floor window of a North York apartment in the presence of Toronto police while suffering a mental health crisis.
The incident closely mirrored the high-profile death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman who fell 24 storeys from her High Park apartment balcony to her death in the presence of Toronto police in 2020. The Ontario Special Investigations Unit eventually cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, but Korchinski-Paquet’s family has since filed a $10M-civil lawsuit in connection to her death.
The Toronto Police Services emblem is photographed during a press conference at TPS headquarters, in Toronto on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Bain says an increase in police funding will directly correlate to an increase in officer deployment in racialized communities.
“We already know that police don't protect racialized people. That is clear,” she said. “So why is the narrative that more police would mean safer communities? The question becomes: safer for whom?”
IS CRIME INCREASING?
While the recent rash of violent attacks has captured the attention of Toronto residents, Bain argues these high-profile crimes do not necessarily indicate an increase in crime.
“The mayor insists that crime is on the rise, but statistics do not show us that crime is on the rise,” she said.
While Toronto remains one of the safest cities in the world, according to a recent Economist ranking, TPS’ Major Crime Indicator data indicates that the number of assaults and robberies have increased by 10 and 27 per cent year-over-year, while the number of homicides in the city has decreased by almost 18 per cent in the same timeframe.
Overall, the city’s crime rate is still comparable to what it was pre-pandemic. In 2019, police reported 41,601 major crimes. At the time of publication, Toronto police have reported 44,060 major crimes in 2022.
To Bain, the numbers don’t provide an argument strong enough to justify an increase in police spending.
“Every time there is a shooting, money goes to the police, but that does not solve anything because what is not being dealt with is the root of problems.”
In his swearing-in ceremony earlier in December, newly appointed TPS Chief Myron Demkiw echoed Tory’s sentiments and confirmed he too would ask for an increase in the force’s budget from city council.
He did not specify the dollar amount the force planned to request from council, but said the force is currently not meeting its standard for the number of calls responded to in a timely fashion.
“The community has spoken succinctly on what their expectations are for Toronto police,” he said. “We need to be able to respond when they call.”
Incoming Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw salutes during the national anthem at a police change of command ceremony in Toronto, Monday, Dec.19, 2022.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Demkiw said this would be a priority for the force under his leadership, along with building community trust, accelerating police reform, and supporting safer communities. Few details have been provided on how these goals will be achieved or what benchmarks will be used to measure progress.
In the meantime, Bain is unwavering in her proposal for increasing community safety.
“We keep saying this over and over – give communities money so that they can create sustainable communities, in which they can support and protect themselves,” she said.
“Because police don’t protect us – we protect us.”
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