No budget increases coming, Police Services Board told
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair addresses a news conference Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Ian Willms)
Toronto’s police force will not receive a budget increase next year, city councillor and budget chief Mike Del Grande told the Police Services Board on Wednesday.
“I wanted to make sure that they got the message,” he told reporters after the meeting.
But, the prospect of a zero-budget increase or even a budget reduction, as Del Grande proposes, could mean that officers have to be laid off, said Toronto police Chief Bill Blair.
“One of the potential implications of significant reductions in that budget is on staffing levels,” Blair said.
Blair said Toronto Police Services is already doing a review of its practices to find cost savings, but 88 per cent of the budget is staffing costs, making it difficult to make major reductions without reducing payroll costs.
Del Grande also told reporters that he is calling for an independent review of the whole structure of Toronto Police Services to determine what the right number of police officers is.
Similar studies have been done before, but they haven’t been independent and have been influenced by the chief or the Police Services Board, Del Grande said.
“How many police officers are on the street at any particular time? If you do your math, etcetera, there are a lot of police officers, with the math that I do,” Del Grande said. “Are they on the desk because of injury, modified work? I have no idea. But no one has been able to tell us, definitively, how many police officers does it take to police the city of Toronto?”
Del Grande suggested that there is a culture of always adding additional police officers to Toronto’s force and he questioned if this is necessary.
Mayor Rob Ford, however, has recently suggested that both the provincial and federal governments need to give the city additional funding for policing.
Ford’s request for funding came in the wake of a public shooting in east end Toronto on July 16, where two people were killed and 23 people injured when at least one person opened fire during a community barbeque on Danzig Street.
In the wake of that shooting, Blair announced that Toronto police would ask officers to work overtime for the remainder of the summer in order to put more officers on the streets.
“This summer, we are dealing with a significant concern that exists in the city with the respect to safety and we are putting more officers on the street,” Blair told reporters Wednesday.
But, he said that ensuring that the 2013 budget delivers services in the most economical way possible does not have to contradict high-quality policing.
Del Grande said his job is simply to raise the questions about staffing levels and then to pass his findings along to the mayor.
One thing is for sure, Del Grande said, there is a trend across Canada of skyrocketing costs for emergency services.
“The costs of our emergency services groups are far exceeding the cities’ abilities to pay,” Del Grande said.