Toronto police to lift hiring freeze amid concerns of a staffing crunch

Toronto's police force is poised to lift a hiring freeze to confront what the association that represents officers calls a staffing crisis.

Mayor John Tory says 'modest' number of new hires needed as more officers than expected retiring

Toronto's police force is poised to put its hiring freeze on hold, the mayor and head of the police association confirm. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto's police force is poised to lift a hiring freeze to confront what the association that represents officers calls a staffing crisis.

The Toronto Police Association (TPA) warned last month that officers are at a "breaking point," and that in some instances divisions didn't have enough staff to handle all of the calls coming in.

"Our position is the same, that it is serious and that we are short-staffed," TPA president Mike McCormack told CBC Toronto.

While both Mayor John Tory and Chief Mark Saunders have denied the force was dealing with a crisis, Tory confirmed some new hires are in the works under an agreement hammered out between the police, The Toronto Police Services Board, and the TPA.

McCormack said the exact number of officers to be hired is still under discussion.

"It's not a question of a lot or a few, it's a question of having the right amount so that we're adequately staffing," he told CBC Toronto.

The formal announcement is expected soon.

New hires needed due to officer departures, mayor says

Mayor John Tory, speaking at the future rail yards for the Eglinton Crosstown, said the agreement with the Toronto Police Association was the result of positive discussions between the two sides. (John Rieti/CBC)

Toronto police brought in the hiring freeze as part of its modernization efforts, which were introduced after the force's budget rose to more than $1 billion per year. The transformational task force issued a series of recommendations, including a number that will make sure trained police officers are focused on police work, not tasks that new technology or a civilian can handle.

Tory says while that work is continuing, some new officers are needed because there have been more retirements and departures from the force than predicted.

"The notion of doing a very modest amount of hiring to make sure that we don't see the police service reduced too fast in size … is just a sensible thing to do to preserve a safe city," Tory told reporters.

Tory declined to say how much the hiring is expected to cost, but said he's committed to keeping the force's budget in check.

"The police association will be working with us to look at everything — including the shifts, by the way — to make sure that our efforts to bring the budgets into line and make sure we constrain the growth of that budget," he said.

'It's doing the right thing,' TPA head says

The mayor denied the police association's move to launch a website to warn about the issues played any role in the decision.

McCormack also downplayed those efforts, saying the decision was made after a series of positive discussions between the sides.

"I don't think it's a matter of caving … it's doing the right thing," he said.

McCormack says the TPA supports the modernization efforts as long as they're based in evidence and aren't just "cost-cutting for the sake of cost-cutting."

About the Author

John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.