Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 135, January 15, 2022

January 15th 2022

In this issue:
1. Police Board meeting on the 2022 budgets
2. TPAC proposals to the City’s Budget Committee
3. Registering with the City’s Budget Committee
4. Mayor Tory accused of conflict violations

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 135, January 15, 2022
This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC), a group of individuals and organizations in Toronto interested in police policies and procedures, and in making police more accountable to the community they are committed to serving. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca
In this issue:
1. Police Board meeting on the 2022 budgets
2. TPAC proposals to the City’s Budget Committee
3. Registering with the City’s Budget Committee
4. Mayor Tory accused of conflict violations
5. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Police Board meeting on the 2022 budgets.

Early afternoon on January 4, the Police Board released four police budgets: the operating police service budget for $1.26 billion ($1.1 billion net); the capital budget for $60 million; the police parking budget for $51 million; and the Board budget for $2 million. The Board scheduled approval of these budgets for a meeting on January 11. Responses from the public were required by 9 am on January 10, giving the public – and groups like ours – exactly three business days to read, meet, consider and comment on those budgets.
Chief Ramer’s report on the operating budget claims its budget process “allows the public the opportunity to know more about the Service’s budget, to strengthen public trust through education and transparency, and to promote greater accountability.” Of course, given the very tight timelines, that’s not true.
And to confirm what a sham consultation process the Board was engaged in, immediately after the release of those budgets Mayor John Tory tweeted he thought the budgets should be approved. It was a clear attempt to shut out discussion.
TPAC asked for a two week delay, and that the Board post online the detailed 2022 operating budget by individual program area, function and service delivered (such as Guns and Gangs, mental crisis calls, homeless calls, drug calls, etc.) as required of the service by the Board on August 18, 2020.
On January 11 the Board heard 20 deputations, nineteen of which asked either that the consideration be delayed or that the budgets be substantially reduced in favour of alternative community responses. Only one member of the Board - Ainsworth Morgan - addressed any of the arguments made by deputations, asking staff what other opportunities people had to address budget issues. He was told people could go to the City’s Budget Subcommittee on January 24, and later to the City Executive Committee. Apart from that one question, Board members proceeded with their comments as though they had heard nothing from anyone. The Board then voted unanimously to support all four police budgets presented.

More information about responding to the Board’s decision can be found below.

2. TPAC’s letter to the City’s Budget Committee

Since the January 11 meeting, TPAC has drafted a response to the 2002 police service operating budget. We have written to the city’s budget sub-committee as follows:

We believe the 2022 operating budget should not be larger than 2021, and it should also address four sets of issues:
1. It should create efficiencies, doing a better job at less cost.
2. It should address the major issues created by police culture: racism, sexism, and violence.
3. It should start to resolve the questions of appropriate police functions and propose ways to transfer some functions now carried out by police to more appropriate community agencies.
4. It should improve processes for police discipline.

Some proposals will save money, some will cost money. Some will require provincial legislation, some can be done by the police board and police service. Some can be done relatively quickly, some are complex and will take some time to accomplish. The objective with all changes is to ensure the police provide better service to the community.

We believe community safety and security is secured through a wide web of community players, of which the police are but one element. Too many people over-emphasize the police role in creating safe and secure communities when it is clear that police are not effective in preventing crime, and are not particularly efficient in responding to crime when it has occurred simply because it is not always easy to determine who the criminals actually are. As well, we are aware that too often police create a secure of fear and in security in communities, rather than increasing a sense of safety and security.

Accordingly, we believe the 2022 police service operating budget should include the following changes:

(1) Ending suspension with full pay

Legislation to end the current practise of suspending officers facing criminal charges or disciplinary offenses only if they are fully paid must be ended. Instead the chief should be authorized to suspend officers without pay, as now occurs in Alberta. The Association of Chiefs of Police in Ontario has made this demand for several years, but the provincial government has always refused to make this change. With a provincial election set for June, it makes sense for the Board and the service to press for this change, at least for Toronto.

The police service probably has a firm figure of what suspension with pay cost in 2021, as well as an estimate of its cost in 2021. While these costs have not been made public, the annual savings in Toronto would probably be in the order of $12 million. As well, suspension with pay will help to curtail the drawn out process of resolving suspension disputes, now often involving years of delays and appeals since the officer is being fully paid during this process. This should add another $1 million to the savings.

The Board should make the application for legislation to the provincial government, and then approach all political parties at Queens Park asking them to commit to this change in the election scheduled for early June. The Board should undertake a modest public campaign to seek public support for this change, using media announcements, as well as asking City Council, which funds almost all of police expenditures, to get behind this initiative.

Assuming the change in legislation could be in place by September of this year, some $4.5 million would be saved in 2022. Much more will be saved in 2023 and in future years.

(2) Dispense with two officers in a car after dark

In 2019, agreement was reached with the Police Association to loosen the rule requiring two officers in a car after dark. The agreement stated `Where the parties agree that officer and public safety will not be compromised, they may mutually agree to modify or waive the application of the two officer patrol car requirement in order to improve the capacity of the Service to more flexibly meet operational demands.’

Some 97 per cent of calls for police service do not involve violence, and for those calls the police response should not involve two officers in a car. Using this approach, some 200 officers could be freed up with only one officer in a car during nighttime shifts: this would mean there is no need to hire 200 new officers at a cost of $16 million to replace those retiring. The savings in 2022 would be gradual throughout the year, and would total about half that amount - $8 million.

(3) Institute pre-charge screening

The Board should seek permission from the province to institute pre-charge screening in Toronto so that instead of police laying charges, they will be laid only by crown attorneys. This practise is now in place in British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick.

In Toronto, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, 68 per cent of the charges laid by Toronto police last year were dismissed by the courts or withdrawn. In Quebec, about 10 per cent of criminal charges are withdrawn or dismissed by the court; in British Columbia, about 20 per cent.

The cost savings in Toronto if pre-charge screening were in place would be enormous: much less pressure on the judicial system, much less work for police including court preparation and court time, and much less harassment and expense for those unnecessarily charged. And if a racial lens were added to consideration by the crown attorneys, charging Black and Indigenous persons, now about five times more often than whites, could be reduced. Racial profiling by police could be partially addressed with this change.

The savings to the Board will be in the resources spent by officers in processing unnecessary charges, including the time spent in or preparing for court. In all likelihood, those savings would amount to $30 million a year.

The Board should make the application to the provincial government to have the crown lay charges rather than police officers, and then approach all political parties at Queens Park asking them to commit to this change in the election scheduled for early June. The Board should undertake a modest public campaign to get the public to support this change, using media announcements, as well as asking City Council, which funds almost all of police expenditures, to get behind this initiative.

Assuming this change could be in place by September of this year, some $9 million would be saved in 2022.

(4) Begin a program to disarm rank and file officers.

As reported to the Board in September 2021, in the first four months of 2021, Toronto police received 300,000 calls for service. Of those, 10,000 were `calls involving violence’. The overwhelming number of calls, 97 per cent, did not involve violence. But each officer who attended a call for service had a gun, a conducted energy weapon and body armour.

An effective response to these 97 per cent of calls is an officer with a cell phone and a paper and pen, or indeed a community response that does not involve police as noted in the de-tasking comments which follow. Calls involving violence can be handled by the Emergency Response Team.

The police service should begin de-escalating its response by getting rid of this expensive hardware for most of the calls most of the time. Only a limited number of officers need this equipment. Police relations with community members will improve, and there will be significant cost savings in armour, guns, ammunition, and tasers. The amount in the 2022 budget for guns and ammunition is $1.7 million.

Making this change will include considerable negotiations with officers and the Police Association. Strategies will be needed to determine in which divisions the changes should first be made, as well as training officers. Funds required to retain outside assistance if needed, should be found within the existing budget. As well, permission will be required from the provincial government, and again the political parties at Queens Park should be alerted to the Board’s initiative to seek their agreement.

While it is possible change could be made in 2022, it is probably not likely, so no reduction in the budget should be included in the 2022 budget at this time, although there will be a significant reduction in 2023.

(5) Begin de-tasking

The Board should institute the changes needed to de-task police of many calls involving the homeless, drug overdoses, youth, and gender-based violence. The changes here are similar to those underway to de-task police of mental health crisis calls. The change will take time, but the savings are considerable.

The report Rethinking Community Safety estimates the saving in the police operating budget from de-tasking will amount to more than $300 million a year.

The Board should embark on an initiative to begin making these changes. This will not be something which the police service can do on its own. It can only be done with the assistance of independent experts to help negotiate changes with appropriate social service agencies and their interface with the police service. In all likelihood these negotiations will take the better part of 2022, so that no financial changes can be expected in this budget year: they will be implemented, and the savings will occur, in future years.

City Council should be requested to support this initiative – as it has indicated it wishes to see occur - by providing the funding and support for the retention of the necessary negotiators.

(6) Disband the mounted unit

The mounted unit is a service which is not necessary in today’s police service. It serves mostly a public relations role, and any policing functions it provides such as searching rough terrain can be provided in other ways, such as by drones.

The annual cost of the mounted unit is $5.9 million. If the decision is made now to disband the unit, about half that amount - $3 million - can be saved in 2022 as the unit is phased out.

The total savings from all these changes in 2022 will be $24 million. This would mean the operating budget would be no larger than in 2021.

TPAC has asked the Budget Sub-committee to have the Police Services Board agree to these changes.

3. Writing to the City’s Budget Committee
TPAC encourages people to write to the Budget Sub-committee concerning the budgets at buc@toronto.ca . The sub-committee will be holding several sessions on and after January 24 – currently it is unclear on which days it will deal with Toronto police budgets. It is expected the sub-committee will permit deputations.

Social Planning Toronto has a City Budget Community Dialogue planned for January 20, 2 pm – 4 pm, as well as many resources for the public to access in order to understand the budget process and participate – info at https://www.socialplanningtoronto.org/citybudget2022_dialogue?recruiter_id=1503 . It also has useful information about the city budget: see https://www.socialplanningtoronto.org/citybudgetwatch_resources

4. Mayor Tory accused of conduct violations

The Law Union of Ontario announced on December 6 that it has filed a complaint with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission about the conduct of Toronto Police Service Board member Toronto Mayor John Tory.

The complaint alleges that Mayor Toronto violated the Code of Conduct for Police Service Board members when he made a series of statements and tweets reported in the media criticizing the decision of Ontario Superior Court Justice Jill Copeland to grant bail in an ongoing high profile murder case involving the death of a Toronto Police officer; blaming the judiciary for being unduly lenient in granting bail in gun cases; and advocating against the availability of bail in first degree murder cases and gun charges.

Tory termed the judge’s decision “questionable” and tweeted that it “is almost impossible to imagine a circumstance in which an accused in a case of first degree murder would be granted bail.”

According to the complaint, Mayor Tory’s conduct demonstrated a failure to exercise the “utmost circumspection and prudence” required of all Police Service Board members by the Code of Conduct prescribed by the Police Services Act. The complaint also alleges that Mayor Tory’s comments about an ongoing murder case also violated the sub judice rule which prohibits public officials from making comments about ongoing proceedings in order to avoid any appearance of influencing or prejudicing an accused person’s rights to a fair hearing or trial.

Mayor Tory has repeatedly issued statements in the media advocating the denial of the right to bail for persons charged with gun offences and, most recently, first degree murder. The automatic denial of bail for certain offences or offenders would violate the right to reasonable bail guaranteed by Section 11(e) of the Charter and the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Section 11(d).

The complaint asks the Commission to investigate and hold a hearing into Mayor Tory’s conduct as a Police Services Board member. A hearing date has not yet been set.

5. Subscribe to the Bulletin

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to info@tpac.ca with the instructions in the subject line or in the text of the message. Our e-mail list is confidential and will not be made available to others. There is no charge for the Bulletin. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca .

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
E-mail: info@tpac.ca