Members of the Toronto Police Association (TPA) have voted “no confidence” on the leadership of Chief Mark Saunders.
Results of the online vote released on Thursday shows 86 per cent of TPA members voted no confidence while 14 per cent voted in support of the chief.
The TPA told Global News that 47.3 per cent of its members participated in the vote. This represents just under half of the 8,000 uniform and civilian members of the TPA.
“Do you want to dismiss over 2,600 people saying, ‘We’ve lost confidence. We feel that the direction is wrong.’? You can’t dismiss that,” TPA President Mike McCormack told reporters ahead of the Toronto Police Services Board meeting on Thursday.
“It’s coming from our members. They wanted to have a quantitative piece saying this is how we feel.”
The TPA said last week in an internal memo to its members that the chief is jeopardizing their safety by implementing cost-cutting measures which have reduced the number of officers on the streets.
TPA Board of Directors wrote that a “No Confidence Vote sends a message to the Chief, our elected City leaders, and the community that our members have lost confidence in the Chief’s ability to act in the best interests of the membership and the community.”
The memo cites numerous attempts to address relief measures for its members, yet the chief “has continuously failed to put forward any meaningful solutions to relieve stress.”
Online voting opened last Wednesday at 3 p.m. and closed at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 21.
The Toronto Police Services Board said in a statement released on Thursday that they “fully and unequivocally” support the chief.
“We know that modernization of our police service is necessary. We also know that it is difficult,” the statement read.
“We are keenly aware of the challenges this substantial change poses for our members, both uniform and civilian, as well as their families. But we also believe that the organization will emerge from this transformation stronger, more effective and more responsive to, and trusted by, the community.”
The TPA notes the cancellation of recruit classes, freeze on hiring and promotions and high attrition rate are the key drivers in a “morale crisis” among members.
While a non-confidence vote is not binding on Chief Saunders, it underscores the growing rift between his office and many Toronto Police Association members.
“Frontline staffing is critical. We need to fix what’s going on,” McCormack said. “We need to fix the wait times. We need to fix the response times for our officers responding to calls and all we have is a police services board that is dismissive of these concerns.”
The TPA launched a “Stop the Toronto Police Cuts” campaign last month, targeting the mayor and senior police service officials. The union said the mayor and the officials are to blame for a “crisis” in staffing and response times amid a large modernization initiative.
Part of the modernization plan calls for fewer policing divisions and other changes designed to make the force more efficient.
VIDEO: Toronto’s police chief is on the hot seat with the police union’s latest pressure tactic
Julian Fantino, who served as Toronto’s police chief between 2000 and 2005, also faced a non-confidence vote from the TPA during his tenure.
“It’s an old hat kind of a tactic that’s used quite often in the United States. In fact it was born there (and) sort of transported here into Canada,” the former federal Conservative cabinet minister told Arlene Bynon on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.
Fantino said while he can appreciate any police union’s concerns with regards to officer safety, he called the approach the “lowest of the low” and said Saunders “deserves better.”
LISTEN: 640 Toronto law enforcement analyst Julian Fantino on the Toronto Police Association’s non-confidence vote
—With a file from Caryn Lieberman and Nick Westoll