TORONTO — Mayor John Tory plans to send a formal written request to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in order to modernize police practices in Toronto and address budgetary concerns to the country’s largest police force.
Tory told Wynne during a regularly scheduled meeting at Queen’s Park on Monday he wants provincial legislation changed to implement photo radar in school zones and have non-police officers manage traffic in certain situations.
WATCH: Tory requests new transportation legislation, may introduce photo radar
“We can use technology in place of uniform police officers and this will allow for more efficient deployment of expensive, high-trained police officers,” Tory told reporters.
“A lot of cities in the United States, and I think even some in Canada, have the latitude to use people who are non-police officers guide traffic.”
Wynne said there is no talk of implementing similar technology outside the City of Toronto but said it’s up to each municipality to come forward and address those needs.
“The challenge is that Mayor Tory is talking about some very specific things that he’s looking at,” said Wynne.
“It really needs to be a discussion that starts with the municipality, who are on the front line, who are working with police forces and coming to us and saying this it the kind of thing we’re looking to see.”
Murtaza Haider, associate professor of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, said the decision was a “good move” for two reasons.
“It deals with governance and it deals with the issue of policing cost,” he said, adding that the city “still doesn’t have the right to police its own streets the way it wants to.”
“We have become prohibitively expensive when we look at the policing costs in the Greater Toronto Area, especially in Toronto for that matter, and having police confined to its core services, that is fighting crime, would be one way of reducing the cost.”
Haider said the proposal could also have a positive effect on transportation and more specifically pedestrian safety.
“Our number of pedestrian deaths is still very high and I think having these photo radars in high pedestrian zones, and especially in school zones, will have an impact,” he said.
“We would achieve two distinct objectives with it; we will be able to improve pedestrian safety and at the same time we will do so at an affordable price given the policing costs would be lower with it. So it’s a win-win thing and I hope that the premier would agree to it.”
City council last week approved a 2.5 per cent increase in the police budget for 2016 which brings the cost of law enforcement to more than $1 billion for the first time in the department’s history.
A task force was also recently set up to find ways to streamline the police service and help cut costs.
A report on police reform is slated to be released later this summer.
With files from Mark Carcasole