Report calls for Toronto Police to be transformed

June 16, 2016
Jun 16 2016 TORONTO - A report aimed at saving millions at the Toronto Police Service suggests doing away with six police divisions, disbanding TAVIS and allowing officers to operate in cruisers without a partner in select circumstances. The report from the Transformational Task Force was released during a technical briefing with members of the media Thursday. Among the recommendations, the task force recommends that the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) should be disbanded by the end of the summer following a substantial cut to the unit's provincial funding (from $5 million to $2.6 million) that took effect in January.

Jun 16 2016

TORONTO - A report aimed at saving millions at the Toronto Police Service suggests doing away with six police divisions, disbanding TAVIS and allowing officers to operate in cruisers without a partner in select circumstances.

The report from the Transformational Task Force was released during a technical briefing with members of the media Thursday.

Among the recommendations, the task force recommends that the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) should be disbanded by the end of the summer following a substantial cut to the unit's provincial funding (from $5 million to $2.6 million) that took effect in January.

The report says the deployment of TAVIS officers "had unintended impacts on communities, especially on communities, especially among racialized youth who felt unfairly targeted."

The report also recommends the service should lose 450 uniformed officers through attrition and implement a three-year freeze on hiring and non-essential promotions.

As well, the report recommends merging or shutting down six divisions as a way to save money on property taxes.

Under the proposal, 54 Division would close shop in 2017, merging with 55 Division. Then in 2018, 12, 13, 33, 53, and 41 divisions would be shut down.

The president of the police union said he isn't pleased with what's being proposed and warned it could have devastating consequences.

"It's seems to be a very conflicting report. They are talking about improved, enhanced policing in communities and having these collaborations while at the same time saying 'How are we going to start this up? We are going to reduce the size of the service,'" Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack told CP24 on Thursday. "It is absolutely ridiculous."

McCormack said that his members are open to seeking out efficiencies that will allow the TPS to trim its $1 billion budget but he said public safety must be paramount.

The problem, he said, is that by cutting units like TAVIS and reducing the number of officers on the street public safety will be negatively affected.

"We are about not only protecting our members' rights but we are about public safety and we are going to look at it from a public safety lens," he said.

The report suggests Toronto Police administrators negotiate away the provision in the collective agreement with the Toronto Police Association that requires two officers in each patrol cruiser.

Using risk analysis, the report says single officer cruisers would be used in situations where being alone would not compromise officers safety, the report says.

The report also calls for the disbanding of the transit patrol unit, dedicated to patrolling TTC subways and stations, and uploading the service's program for city-run beaches and school crossing programs for the city to manage.

The report calls on the province to allow security guards at area shopping malls train to become special constables. This move would save about 5,500 hours of police labour each year.

The recommendations are expected to be tabled at Friday's meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.

Public consultations would likely then be held before any of the proposal are implemented.

Speaking with CP24 about the report on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory said it has the potential to be transformational.

"It achieves things people said we couldn't do, or we wouldn't do, or in some cases they said we shouldn't do," he said. "I think they are things that are in the public interest - they will make for a safer city, they will make for a better policed city, they will make for the more efficient deployment of police services, and they'll make for the beginnings of a restoration of trust."

The task force says Toronto's current model of policing is outdated, with the city "still working on the same model from 1957."

The task force, struck by Tory earlier this year, was told to come up with recommendations to modernize the city's police force with an eye on making it more efficient and cost-effective.

The report focuses on five key areas, making recommendations intended to improve the police service's partnership with its communities as well as making the force fiscally responsible.

The primary focus is on safe communities, including embedding officers in communities and interacting with residents more. The report recommends using data to focus on communities where the biggest issues are.

The report recommends changing from a primary to a priority response model, making more efforts to prioritize calls and using a civilian workforce for non-emergency responsibilities like lifeguarding, crossing guards and transit support.

It also suggests the public needs better access to police services, lifting the current police boundaries and replacing them with officers embedded in Toronto's 140 neighbourhoods, where they can better partner with social service agencies and other support services.

Police need to go back to the job of policing, the report recommends.

Currently, Toronto police officers are being used for a variety of tasks that don't really require police. Officers act as lifeguards at pools, crossing guards at intersections, backup security on TTC buses and subways, even standing guard over high-traffic construction areas.

Uniformed police should not perform these duties unless there is a realistic threat to public safety, the report states.

By 2017, the city will take over the life guard and crossing guard programs, and the city will also take over any parking enforcement duties currently undertaken by police. Bylaw enforcement and court services can be handled by security guards or city officials.

(CTV News, City TV)

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