TORONTO – Toronto’s Police Board will debate an unprecedented budget proposal Thursday, one that could total over $1 billion for the first time ever.
The proposed 2016 budget would amount to a $27-million increase over the current year, despite a request from the city that police decrease their budget proposal by one per cent.
Almost 90 per cent of the budget goes toward salaries and benefits for the TPS workforce of over 5,400 officers and more than 2,200 civilians.
“The only way you can impact the budget, getting it down lower is to get rid of people, get rid of personnel,” says Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack.
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The head of the city’s police union says the force is already 400 officers below its ideal number, “and I’m very concerned that this will impact public and officer safety.”
The Toronto police budget has come a long way.
In 1900, Toronto police patrolled a city of 200,000 people on a budget of about $242,000, or about $5.5 million when adjusted for inflation. Fast-forward 115 years and things obviously cost a little more; this year’s budget came in at just under $980 million.
But John Sewell of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition says the ballooning budget is not sustainable, claiming it’s been an issue since he was the city’s mayor in the late 70s. He says with dropping crime rates, there are many ways to streamline the force.
“There’s a lot of police officers that are doing work that could easily be done by civilians. Not sophisticated jobs. Civilians, you pay them about half the money.”
That’s actually one recommendation in a KPMG report commissioned by the Toronto Police Services Board last year; along with ideas like closing all 17 police divisions and running storefront-type community operations around the city.
Dr. Alok Mukherjee was still chair of the Board at the time, and says he’s disappointed it wasn’t tabled in time for budget discussions.
“It really requires a great deal of firmness and determination to make the kind of changes that the consultant are talking about,” he says from his new post in Ryerson University’s Criminology Department. Mukherjee says Toronto’s policing establishment is fairly resistant to major change.
The KPMG report will be made public when it is tabled by the Board in December.
The Board will vote on the budget as proposed at its meeting on Thursday.