Metro Morning

Toronto police budget: No 'quick fixes' to controlling policing costs

The chair of Toronto's Police Services Board says there are no 'quick fixes' to control rising policing costs and the board is working on implementing changes that will save money.

Police board chair Andy Pringle defends new $1B budget

Police were given a bump in their annual operating budget on Thursday. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

The chair of Toronto's Police Services Board says there are no "quick fixes" to control rising policing costs and the board is working on implementing changes that will save money.

"Just to cut, cut, cut, is not the way to efficiencies," said Andy Pringle this morning in an interview on CBC's Metro Morning. "We've got to find out how we do policing better."

Pringle made the comments one day after the board approved a budget of just over $1 billion for 2016, an increase of 2.76 per cent or $27 million.

We have controlled the cost of policing.- Andy Pringle, Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board

Mayor John Tory and others have long called for police budget to be pared back. Policing is by far the largest expense in the city's budget and almost 90 per cent of the policing budget goes to salaries and benefits.

Pringle told host Matt Galloway that this year's increase is less than in previous years. He said the Police Services Board has made "significant progress" in reducing police staffing costs.

He said between 2007 and 2011 police received budget increases ranging from 3.9 to 4.8 per cent but in recent years those increases have been reduced.

"We have controlled the cost of policing," he said. "We've been finding efficiencies."

For example, he said not all retiring officers are replaced each year.

Pringle was asked about comments made by his predecessor Alok Mukherjee earlier this week on Metro Morning, who said the force lacks the will to change how policing is done.

"There's some degree of truth in that," said Pringle. "Any big successful organization … they do things a certain way, they do things well … there is a sense that if we just had more people we could do even better, as opposed to a desire to look at a whole new way of doing it which is what we're trying to establish."

Yesterday, Brian Kelsey, a public policy consultant and former budget advisor to the mayor of Winnipeg, suggested that moving to a four-platoon shift schedule and encouraging "light-duty" officers to retire are easy steps that could save the police about $50 million a year. 

The president of Toronto's Police Association, Mike McCormack was also interviewed on Metro Morning today and said any trimming to the police budget will have a negative effect on the level of service. 

"This whole notion that you can just have a magic pill and say 'we're going to trim $65 million or $100 million off the budget without having an impact on service delivery is just wrong,'"  he said.

Cost-cutting in the future?

The police budget increase comes amid news of a yet-to-be released KPMG report that spells out cuts to the force that would dramatically reduce costs. It includes the idea of closing all 17 police division buildings and replacing them with storefront operations.

He pointed out that the report came just as a new Chief Mark Saunders was taking over the job and said the kind of sweeping changes it calls for take time to implement.

"This is meant to be large, transformative changes. It's mean to be a long-term vision of how we police differently," said Pringle. "We've got to look at how we embrace technology, how we police differently," he said. "Those are things that we want to look at."

As for changing the shift structure, Pringle said this: "That is part of the collective agreement. We negotiated with association that we would set up a committee to study it."​

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