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Toronto police force lacks 'mindset' to trim budget

The former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board said the force is lacking the 'change mindset' needed to examine ways to pare back rising salary costs.
Former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee said the Toronto Police Service lacks a 'change mindset' when it comes to finding efficiencies and curtail rising costs. (CBC)

The former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board says the police force lacks "the change mindset" required to bring in reforms needed to curtail rising salary costs. 

Alok Mukherjee made the comments today on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. He spoke about an external report he commissioned in 2011 during his time as chair of the board, which provides civilian oversight over the city's police force.

Accounting firm KPMG was asked to find ways the force could trim its annual budget which now exceeds $1 billion, with almost 90 per cent of that cost going toward salaries and benefits. 

The report's recommendations include:

  • Closing all 17 TPS division buildings and replacing them with storefront operations.
  • Shrinking platoon sizes.
  • Shifting jobs currently carried out by police officers to civilian positions. 

Current board chair Andy Pringle told the Toronto Star the report was an "internal think document." Mukherjee, however, told Metro Morning he wanted the report to be available to the public. 

As for the report's recommendations, Mukherjee said the police need to consider what he sees as common-sense measures to pare back rising staffing costs. 

"The problem is that … the service is so ingrown," he said. "People who have … developed a comfort level with the way they have been doing things for 50 years and more. And they've internalized the view that they have the best, most efficient service. So there's not a change mindset that exists in the organization. It's a cultural problem."

Mukherjee said police should take a hard look at costly staffing practices like sending two officers to minor traffic collisions. He also recommended using more civilians for duties such as forensics, identification and criminal analysis. 

Pressure on new chief to change

Coun. Shelley Carroll, who currently serves on the Police Service Board, also appeared on Metro Morning Monday. 

She said the report hasn't been made public because the board is still consulting with its authors. 

"There are no decisions being made on it right now," she said.

Toronto's new police chief Mark Saunders, who was sworn in last July, will be expected to make changes, Carroll said. 

"These are radical changes, but these are changes that can be done," she said.

"There is going to be a great deal of pressure put on new leadership … and this is the way for your to rebuild your relationship with the citizens of Toronto. Embrace change because that's what the citizens of Toronto are saying almost to a man."