Toronto Police Board unanimously approves increased operating budget for 2022

Click to play video: 'The Toronto Police Services Board has approved a 2.3 percent increase in its operating budget for 2022'
The Toronto Police Services Board has approved a 2.3 percent increase in its operating budget for 2022
WATCH: The Toronto Police Services Board has approved a 2.3 percent increase in its operating budget for 2022 – Jan 11, 2022

Interim Police Chief James Ramer made a case for why the Toronto Police Service can no longer afford a zero budget increase, after years of finding efficiencies and hiring fewer police officers.

Following a three-hour virtual Toronto Police Services board meeting, when 20 community members spoke, including one person who suggested the police service should be defunded by fifty percent, the board unanimously approved a $1.1 billion budget proposal for 2022, an increase of $24.8 million or 2.3 per cent.

“We saved $100 million dollars in 2019. Cumulatively, we have saved over $400 million since 2015. The savings we’ve achieved were achieved primarily through staffing reductions.

These reductions have amounted to over 400 uniformed members from 2010 to 2021. A reduction of over 5 percent to our workforce.

This is at a time where demand for service has grown in one of the fastest growing services in North America,” said Ramer, who added that there has been a a zero per cent police budget increase for three of the last five years.

Story continues below advertisement

Ramer explained that making staff reductions has become more challenging each year because the budget is 90 per cent involved in collective agreement obligations.

Ramer said priorities include deploying community officers to neighbourhoods, supporting the “Vision Zero” road safety initiative, allocating more resources to investigate hate crimes, and mental health training for officers.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

He also said that in 2021 there was an 8.6 percent increase in auto theft, which will necessitate the reestablishment of an investigative team to look into the disturbing trend and organized crime.

“All these initiatives will put pressure on our budget,” Ramer said.

He also pointed out that Toronto has fewer officers per resident compared to other large cities in North America. Toronto has 161 police officers per 100,000, compared to Montreal which has 212, and Vancouver which has 196. “Increased public trust in police is our overall goal.”

The first community member to give a deputation, who identified herself as a queer, non-binary person of colour from Rosedale, said she has faced discrimination and violence at the hands of police.

“I’m speaking to support the defunding of police by at least fifty percent to meet community needs.”

Story continues below advertisement

Noah Shack, vice president at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, applauded the service for identifying the need to do more to combat increasing hate crime.

Shack said Jews were targeted in 34 percent of hate crimes in Toronto last year and supports the budget, “particularly focusing on hate crimes and the growing neighbourhood community officer program.”

Howard Morton, who represents the Policing Subcommittee of the Law Union of Ontario, expressed concern about the board’s failure to uphold it’s commitment to budget transparency and accountability, noting that the budget listed $83 million for the TPS Specialized Operations Command but there was no information with respect to how that money would be used.

“There is an $83 million black hole,” Morton said pointing out that the budget proposal was only tabled less than a week before the meeting, giving the public very little time to understand and comment on the 100 page document.

John Sewell of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, asked the board to delay the matter for a two-week period because he agreed it was released too late.

The meeting ended with board members showing support for the budget proposal, including Mayor John Tory, who called it a difficult task.

Story continues below advertisement

The mayor told the board that solid progress had been made toward reforming the Toronto Police Service and it’s listening to residents asking for more police with respect to neighbourhood officers, traffic safety and hate crimes.

“I will not compromise the safety of this city and the steady implementation of reforms and the way we do policing and the investments that are necessary to bring that about. I will not compromise on that, especially in order to appease people who really, when they get down to it, have very few facts and figures to back up what they’re saying in terms of how it would be somehow better to defund the police by fifty percent. Fifty percent,” Tory said calling the idea impractical and impossible.

The proposed budget must now be approved by the City of Toronto budget committee.

Sponsored content