It’s time to get real and stop pretending there’s some sort of magic pill to fix policing in Toronto.
All that’s happening is cost cutting and when that happens, Toronto residents get less policing than they’re used to.
Politicians are calling it transformational but actual police officers know what’s really happening.
“It’s asking us to do more but with less people,” said Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack.
However, the other elephant in the room can’t be ignored, either. The cost of policing is now at a point where it seems unsustainable. Politicians are reacting after being warned about the cost pressures for years.
There’s just not enough budget to maintain the financial demands of officers earning north of $100,000 a year and the expensive reality of providing modern equipment and technology.
But the cost of policing and the need for policing are two separate issues.
The “truth,” added McCormack, is “we need more officers on the street to do the transformational ideas or to keep it at status quo.”
A spreadsheet that shows the value of crime-prevention ventures — playing soccer or basketball with at-risk youth in a park — fails to take into account that organized gangs are for real.
“What we are being told is we will be in 2019 down 1,000 officers of where our studies show we realistically should be,” warned McCormack.
It means more crime. And fewer officers to deal with violence and other forms of criminality.
“We can’t keep up to it all now,” McCormack said.
This is why “100 officers recently went to a recruitment seminar in Durham,” said McCormack. “I am talking officers in their prime. 0fficers with eight years on the job.”
Of the 47 officers who have quit to go to other services in the past 14 months, 18 have gone to the OPP. Also, smaller services love taking fully-trained Toronto officers.
“To slow things down, Toronto Police has changed it so other forces can’t just get a recommendation from their superior officer but now have to go through Human Resources which can take three months,” said McCormack.
Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said going through human resources is a common practice. He added Chief Mark Saunders is in the middle of providing his people with information sessions on transformational change and time is needed to let it roll out.
What needs to happen is for more concrete measures on all sides: Consideration of a more affordable pay grid that includes lower salaries for new hires. Given the importance of having a well-staffed force, savings should be found in other parts of the public sector, including lowering the number of politicians.
If cops are being cut so should less important public agencies and departments.
In fact, our politicians need to find more money for information lines and witness protection programs to ensure violent criminals spend more time behind bars and those with serious criminal pasts are not provided accommodation in public housing buildings.
We shouldn’t expect the rank-and-file officers to bear the brunt of the responsibility for crime prevention or transformational policing.
We are asking a lot of our police: Change how you do your job, know the individuals in your divisions better without street checks and don’t attend to take their so-called minor complaint calls.
Everyone with a stake in policing must work together — the rank and file, the command, politicians and the public.
It really is time to stop sugar coating the bitter reality.
Although it sounds good, Toronto is not really getting a new style of policing but just a smaller service with less officers to respond to what in many neighbourhoods is an increasing crime problem.