6 in 10 say Toronto police not doing enough to cut $1B budget: poll

The $1 billion Toronto police budget isn’t money well spent, more than half of Torontonians polled by CBC News say.

Chief Mark Saunders retains widespread approval, but those polled want police to cut budget

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders enjoys widespread approval, a CBC News poll found. But Torontonians want police to do more to cut back on spending. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Fifty one per cent of people surveyed in a new CBC poll say Toronto police's $1 billion budget for 2016 isn't money well spent.

More people (28 per cent) said they didn't know whether the money was well spent than those who approved of the budget (21 per cent).

A further 62 per cent of people said they don't think the police force is doing enough to reduce the size of its budget, which topped the billion-dollar mark for the first time in the city's history this year. Thirty-one per cent didn't know and eight per cent said the police are doing enough to reduce the size of the budget.

Chief Mark Saunders requested the 2.76 per cent increase — around $27 million — over the 2015 budget and while it was $40 million more than Mayor John Tory and the Toronto Police Services Board said they wanted to spend, the budget was approved unanimously.

"We can't afford to keep the cost going up," Mayor John Tory said after approving the budget.

This week, Coun. Shelley Carroll, who also sits on the police board, said the city has "hit the wall at a billion."

Saunders, who replaced Bill Blair as chief of police last year, said in November when the budget was approved the Toronto Police Service will look at cutting costs in the future by "leveraging technology" and offloading some of its workload.

"Crime is different right now. We've got cyber issues, we've got national security issues, and we've got our day-to-day issues," he said at the time. "Now we need to get other agencies involved to take ownership of some of the responsibilities."

CBC News has requested an interview with Saunders this week, but he was not available.

John Sewell, a former mayor who now works with the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, has blasted the budget, calling the spending "out of control" and saying the budget amounts to a "pot of gold." He also warned that the public currently has no access to a line-by-line breakdown of the budget.

Toronto police are paying for at least one thing that those polled strongly disagree with: officers suspended from duty.

Seventy two per cent of those polled say officers who get suspended from duty should be suspended without pay.

Currently, 14 officers in the city are currently suspended with pay, CBC News learned last week.

However, the police force doesn't control whether or not it can pay officers suspended from duty. Ontario is the only province in Canada where the law stipulates that suspended police officers must remain on the payroll unless they are sentenced to serve time behind bars. The provincial government is considering changing that law.

68% have positive view of chief

While poll respondents question budget expenditures, Saunders, who was sworn in as the city's top cop last year, still has significant support.

Sixty-eight per cent of those polled had a positive view of Saunders, with six per cent saying he was doing an excellent job, 26 per cent saying he was doing a good job and 36 per cent saying he was doing an OK job.

Seven per cent said they think Saunders is doing a bad job, three per cent said a terrible job and 21 per cent of people said they didn't know.

CBC News conducted the online survey by questioning panelists from the Angus Reid Forum between Jan. 29-31. There were 517 respondents, all of whom are over the age of 18. The results have been statistically weighted according to age and gender Census data to ensure a sample representative of the adult population of Toronto on these measures. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


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