Toronto

'It has to be done': Mayor Tory says police task force overhaul non-negotiable

Outdated, reactive, and unable to keep pace with evolving information. That's how a stark new report describes the current state of the Toronto police force.

Report recommends closure of some police stations, hiring freeze

Co-chaired by Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and police board chair Andy Pringle, the transformational task force laid out its interim report on how to modernize the city's police force on Thursday. (CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory is voicing his support for a new report that calls the Toronto Police Service outdated, reactive, unable to keep pace with evolving information and says it must be overhauled.

The document comes from a transformational task force struck by Tory earlier this year, made up of six officers and six members of the public. The task force laid out a 35-page interim report on Thursday containing 24 recommendations on how to modernize the city's police.

The report recommends several major changes to how policing is done in the city, including some recommendations that have already drawn the ire of the Toronto Police Association.

"It has to be done," Tory said commenting on the report Thursday. "It's 2016; nobody's looked at these questions for decades."

The report proposes $100 million in reductions and savings to the Toronto Police Service's operating budget over the next three years with $60 million coming from a moratorium on hiring and promotions between ranks. That would mean 350 fewer officers by next year.

"When this review is complete, the Toronto Police Service will be different," police chief Mark Saunders wrote on the force's website Thursday,

TAVIS affected trust in service

Some of the task force's most scathing criticisms are aimed at the targeted anti-violence strategy unit known as TAVIS. The report recommends that the unit, which is sent into neighbourhoods that have been hit by violent crime, be disbanded and its members deployed to other parts of the service.

'The current...model does not place communities at the centre of service delivery.' - Toronto Police Service's Transformational Task Force 

The program, described in the report as insufficient, had "unintended impacts in communities, especially among racialized youth who felt unfairly targeted, which in turn impacted trust and confidence in the Service," it says.

"The current service delivery model does not place communities at the centre of service delivery or sufficiently elevate and value this kind of police work," it added.

The report recommends several major overhauls to how policing is done in the city, including some recommendations that have already drawn the ire of the Toronto Police Association. (CBC)

"Some individuals and communities, and particularly young people, would not always turn to Service members when they need their help."

"Over a period of time there were segments of our communities that simply felt that the social cost of what TAVIS was creating, far outweighed the value," Saunders said of the program.

In a news conference Thursday, Saunders said the new model would see more officers in areas of the city where he said data suggest there are higher rates of violent crime.

Rather than working primarily out of their vehicles, officers would now carry smart devices that police board chair Andy Pringle said would "untether" police from their cars and allow them to respond to evolving needs.

Division closures among cost-cutting measures

As CBC News reported Wednesday, the force also recommends closing several divisions based on reworked divisional boundaries. 

Those changes would begin with 54 Division merging with 55 Division in 2017. Division stations 12, 13, 33, 41, 52 and 53 could face a similar fate, the report states.

It's self-serve policing: Take a number, get in line.- Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack

Other cost-reducing measures include downloading services like crossing guards, life guards and parking enforcement to the city.

Police officers would no longer respond to complaints about animals or noise, moving away from non-emergency calls which totaled 317,000 in 2015 alone.

The force's Transit Patrol Unit would also be disbanded under the new model, meaning police officers would no longer be responsible for day-to-day issues on subways, buses and other TTC properties. Instead, the TTC's own special constables would handle these issues and local divisions would respond to calls only as necessary.

'Nobody's looked at these questions'

On Thursday, Tory suggested he agreed the police service needs to be modernized.

"The notion of taking steps to restore public trust in the police... is not on the table for debate," Tory said Thursday.

Tory also was critical of Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, saying the association had a role to play in the consultation process but chose to withdraw.

"I hope what they decide to do instead of having some sort of protest action is to work with us," he said.

On Thursday, McCormack said chief among his concerns about the new report is how the force would operate with 350 fewer officers by 2017, saying members of the Toronto Police Service are feeling overworked.

"Our officers are going from call to call right now; they have no time for proactive policing," McCormack said.

"It's self-serve policing: Take a number, get in line," he said.

But before any changes are implemented, the task force will now move to public consultations, asking for further input before it tables a final version of the report  — with perhaps even more recommendations — in January. 

You can read the full report here: