'Our members have had enough': Toronto police officers spotted in union caps to protest cuts

CBC Toronto cameras spotted police officers wearing caps with the letters "TPA" on them, the letters that represent the Toronto Police Association, while on the scene of a shooting near Jane and Finch on Thursday.

Ball caps are part of a plan the union has to push against cutbacks to the service, president says

A Toronto police officer wears a hat as part of a protest by the union against cuts to the police budget. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Toronto police may be spotted around the city today sporting a new addition to their uniforms — a baseball hat.

CBC Toronto cameras spotted police officers wearing caps with the letters "TPA" on them, the letters that represent the Toronto Police Association, while on the scene of a shooting near Jane and Finch on Thursday.

This is part of a plan the union has to push against cutbacks to the force, says Mike McCormack, Toronto Police Association president.

Mike McCormack is the President of the Toronto Police Association. (John Sandeman/CBC)

"Our members have had enough. We will take any action that's necessary to make sure that the public, and our officers and civilians are being protected," McCormack told CBC Toronto.

Mark Pugash, spokesperson for the Toronto police, said that the TPS are monitoring the situation closely.

Sounding the alarm

The plan was first implemented in July, when the union launched a website called "Stop the Toronto police cuts." It was meant to sound the alarm of a "breaking point" being reached by the union members, McCormack told CBC Toronto at the time.

In August, the union met with the Toronto Police Service Board to discuss their concerns. McCormack said Police Chief Mark Saunders and Chair of the Board Andrew Pringle committed to a number of changes, including hiring an additional 80 police officers.

McCormack says there has been no action to move forward with the changes.

"We are concerned about public safety. We wouldn't actually see the 80 officers hired and deployed until January 2019. In the meantime, we've lost 203 uniformed officers through retirements and resignations...we anticipate by the end of the year up to 300 officers. Clearly there's a crisis here that needs to be fixed."

A 'morale issue'

In 2016, Toronto police put a freeze on hiring to help bring down a rising $1 billion budget.

In July, Saunders acknowledged there was a "morale issue" in the force after McCormack claimed that 75 per cent of his officers believe there is a morale "crisis," and 92 per cent of his officers believe staffing is a concern on the force.

"I'm hearing these numbers, but I'm not seeing the surveys that are saying this," Saunders told Metro Morning in July.

"I would not put it as a crisis," he said. "There is a morale issue and I'll be the first to admit that."

"This is an important issue. We've often heard from the chief and the chair that our members don't feel that way, that they're embracing this modernization in the cutbacks. Clearly they are not," said McCormack.

Emergency wait times up, says McCormack

On Wednesday night at 8 p.m. there were 138 calls at one time that were waiting to be attended to by police officers, according to McCormack.

"We actually had a homicide in one of our divisions and we had no vehicles to attend," McCormack said.

The wait times in the city for 911 calls are up as well due to low staffing, said the union president, with people waiting on hold for sometimes three to five minutes at a time.

"It's unacceptable, it's jeopardizing public safety."

with files from Andrea Janus