Summer in Toronto is a time for big events. From film, food and music festivals to charity runs and sporting events, there is a lot to do in the city.
Big events mean big spending for the city, and a big job for Toronto police, who are often tasked with keeping revellers safe — though a report brought before the city’s Executive Committee Thursday says that’s getting harder to do.
The report from Deputy City Manager Tracey Cook details the biggest challenges to the city, police and event organizers when it comes to providing proper security for such events, citing “planning, resource (people and equipment) and funding pressures.”
Among those resource pressures, Cook writes that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has difficulty providing adequate staffing for such events, because they don’t have enough officers available for paid duty.
“In some cases, such as large city events and when the request for paid duty officers go unfilled, the TPS may backfill requests for police presence at the event with on-duty officers. As a result, TPS business continuity is impacted in those areas where the on-duty officers are deployed from,” Cook writes.
This is an issue city staff and police have been discussing since well before Thursday’s meeting, but it has come into sharper focus after the Toronto Raptors’ NBA Championship parade through downtown, marred by accusations of bad planning, a shooting, an ensuing stampede and the death of a young child after a medical episode.
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Mike McCormack, President of the Toronto Police Association, says he’s been sounding that alarm for years. He says not only are there not enough officers to do the paid duty necessary, but that some of those that are available feel a greater need to take the day off than take an extra shift.
“Over 25 per cent of our shifts on a daily basis are being filled by overtime and officers being called back,” says McCormack.
“That also depletes the pool that are available for paid duty, so yeah, they want their time off because they’re working more than they’ve ever worked and they’re stressed out.”
Neither Cook nor Mayor John Tory were available for comment Thursday.
But Councillor Michael Thompson, a member of the Executive Committee, says most of Toronto’s events are well managed for their size and that gatherings as large as the Raptors parade are rare.
“We have to plan in terms of how we can augment the complement with respect to policing and other groups and agencies (i.e. private security)…who could actually help us to ensure that we have a safe event,” says Thompson.
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What that augmentation will look like is still up in the air. The report was simply meant to inform committee members and doesn’t suggest any action.
Potential solutions will be discussed in future meetings between police and city staff.