Citing “low morale,” the Toronto Police Association will release a study showing many “demoralized and burned out” members are quitting to join another force or take other jobs.
“The service is bleeding to death,” said TPA president Mike McCormack Monday. “It’s a sinking ship. Many officers want to get off.”
At a time when Chief Mark Saunders, the Toronto Police Services Board, Mayor John Tory and city council are looking at transformational changes, 20 officers resigned in early 2017 to pursue other employment.
“It’s alarming,” said McCormack. “In all of 2016, 29 officers left for other jobs and we’re already at 20.”
McCormack said 100 Toronto Police officers attended a recent “Durham Regional” recruiting meeting.
“Lack of confidence in the transformational task force,” said McCormack. “Our members are confused as to the direction. It’s a crisis.”
The internal study will be released Wednesday and, he said, politicians can’t “spin” the reality of the street.
“Violent crime is up, the policing numbers are down and many we deal with are armed — yet the politicians are talking about policing with less,” said McCormack. “It doesn’t add up.”
The transformation calls for putting more officers in the street, using social media and walking a beat.
“We are a big supporter of community policing ... as a crime prevention tool,” says the TPA commissioned report. “But a key component, of that, is ensuring that officers have the proactive time — instead of having to run from call to call — to engage with the community.”
McCormack who represents 7,000 uniformed and civilian employees, said his members feel “understaffed” and “overburdened” in a city with spiking violent crime, including 74 homicides in 2016.
A “Morale Survey” says 68% of respondents feel “overall morale is negative, up 18% from the December 2016 survey.” It says 94% of members feel “the Transformational Task Force (TTF) recommendations have had a negative impact on their morale.”
McCormack said the report shows while policing is expected to transform into a new model, officers are skeptical and raising concerns.
“It can’t be dismissed out of hand that the actual officers are questioning this,” said McCormack.
The TPA study says that in 2017, TPS was “down 400 officers from 2010 staffing levels and will lose another 500 additional officers by 2019.”
It adds by 2019, the TPS will be down to “4,766 officers” — 15% less than 2010.
“No one, but the Toronto Police Association is talking about the impact a 15% reduction in police officers will have on public safety,” says the report. “The TPS and city leaders, have not provided city residents with any analysis, to support their position that Toronto can make do with almost 1,000 fewer officers.”
The report states “politicians have not held any meaningful discussion with their constituents on the impact of downsizing a police service despite 410 shooting occurrences involving 581 victims last year and a three-year upward trend in shootings.”
The poll of police officers says 93% feel they are “under-resourced.”
McCormack called the transformational ideas “a Band-Aid” that “may look good on a balance sheet but that’s the only place it will.”
The report says “not only is public safety being compromised, but our officers are burned out, stressed, and morale is at an all-time low” and officers “are in a reactive policing mode, running from call to call with no time for proactive, community engagement.” It adds “emergency response times in Toronto have increased significantly across the board.”
The bottom line, says McCormack, his “demoralized” members are calling out the transformational plans for what they are — unrealistic.
Police chief will address concerns
If Toronto Police officers have concerns about transforming the service, they can take up their concerns directly with Chief Mark Saunders, says spokesman Mark Pugash.
“He is going around to each division and talking to the officers about it,” Pugash said in response to concerns brought forward by the Toronto Police Association. “On one day he’ll be attending four sessions in one day.”
Pugash said he’s confident officers will be “candid” with Saunders who will answer their questions.
He also said the chief “respects” officers’ views.