TAVIS police program has dedicated funding cut
Head of police union says TAVIS is a key source of frontline officers
The head of the Toronto police association says he is surprised the province will cut funding earmarked for the Toronto Police Services's TAVIS program, a specialized unit created 10 years ago to curb gun violence in the city's high-crime neighbourhoods.
In a statement to CBC News, the province confirmed it will cut its annual funding commitment for TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy) from $5 million to $2.6 million starting in January. The same statement says the province's overall grant to Toronto Police Service will increase by $4.7 million over 2014-15 levels. The province provides TPS total annual funding of $47.6 million.
The province says it's opting to divert more money into "work with local groups and prioritize community-based crime prevention and youth engagement."
However Mike McCormack, head of the city's police union, said TAVIS officers are useful in situations where "surge policing" is required. As an example, he cited the work of TAVIS officers in the wake of the Danzig Street shooting in 2012.
Surprised by funding cut
"We were surprised that the funding had been cut," said McCormack on CBC Radio's Metro Morning Thursday. "We feel anecdotally from talking to our members that having extra police officers on the street, that it was a successful program so we were shocked that they were cutting it back."
The change in funding doesn't necessarily mean that the four TAVIS teams of 18 officers will disappear or be reduced. It just means provincial money earmarked specifically for TAVIS won't continue.
TAVIS has received criticism for increasing tension between police and residents of Toronto's high-crime neighbourhoods. Among them are concerns about an increase in carding in neighbourhoods where TAVIS is working.
McCormack said it's important for police to strike a balance, and said TAVIS is a source of much-needed front-line officers.
"We are constantly readjusting and looking at community input and intelligence-led policing," he said.
McCormack said TAVIS has played a key role in making arrests and seizing weapons in high-crime areas of the city.
Mayor John Tory said the move means police will have to re-evaluate their priorities.
"Now we'll have to take that money, which is an increased sum, and deal with the needs as we see fit," he said.