Those ball caps the Toronto Police are wearing around town are not donned because of some big inner-squad baseball tournament.
They are in protest against the Toronto Police command, the city and the Toronto Police Services Board for what the Toronto Police Association is calling “low morale, lack of staffing and a feeling they don’t have the backing they need to do their job in the new plan to modernize the service.”
“The TPS and TPSB have not followed through on the commitments made in the Aug. 10 modernization statement,” the TPA said in an internal statement sent out to its members on Thursday. “Today at 8:30 a.m., the TPA is launching phase two, a demonstration of unity and an effort to raise public awareness.”
The action, said TPA president Mike McCormack, stems from an agreement the TPA had with the Toronto Police Services Board and Chief Mark Saunders on Aug. 10.
“There were four things we needed,” McCormack said. “That there would be 80 new police officers hired in 2017. That all supervisors — both uniform and civilian — be confirmed in their jobs, there would be call-backs in all divisions and that our communications centre would be fully staffed.”
None of those, said McCormack, have come to pass.
“Instead. we see new deputy chiefs confirmed and senior ranks officers,” he said. “All we got from the chief and chair was empty promises.”
He pointed out that in the last nine months the service has lost 203 uniformed members and 124 civilians.
“This has got to stop,” he said.
Like we have seen in Montreal, where officers for years wore army fatigue-style pants, Toronto Police officers are altering their uniform with the TPA ball caps.
“We have no choice,” said McCormack. “We can’t get anybody to listen to our concerns and when that happens, public safety becomes a concern and officer safety. Hopefully, this will get their attention.”
McCormack said it’s important that officers show “unity” at this time when many officers are transferring to other police services or opting to leaving policing altogether.
“We think the public is behind us,” he added.
Mayor John Tory provided a statement on the matter.
“Toronto is the safest city in North America and it is thanks to the men and women of the Toronto Police Service who serve our City with pride and distinction each and every day and we thank them,” Tory said.
The Toronto Police Service is modernizing and for them to be successful requires support, collaboration between all parties, patience and understanding because change takes time and tremendous work.
“The police budget is more than $1 billion this year and we are already addressing all the issues that the TPA has raised – the police announced Tuesday they are starting the process to hire 80 officers and there have already been 113 applicants.
“And, as Mr. McCormack knows, the chief and the police board have been working to address each and every other issue.”
Saunders issued a statement internally, telling his officers that command is listening to all concerns. He also said he will allow officers to wear the ball caps for a “short period of time” out of respect for “solidarity, which is important for law enforcement.”