Alok Mukherjee, Chair of Toronto Police Services Board, Wants to Contract Out School Crossing Guards and Court Security

Update: see previous posts – August 15, 2011 Toronto Police Hiring School Crossing Guards (Part-time Temporary Contracts), July 21, 2011 Toronto Considers Eliminating “School Cross-Guard Program”, September 23, 2010 Back to School 2 Week Campaign – 2010 Results

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Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee.Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee. Colin McConnell/Toronto Star

Rather than eliminating overtime for officers who are expected to give evidence in court after they have issued a ticket or eliminating paid duty, at which at least 180 officers work a day at rates of $65 to $84 an hour, he wants instead, to eliminate civilians who work as school crossing guards who earn $11.33 an hour.  Even Ernst & Young who conducted an efficiency study for Alok Mukherjee’s Board,  with respect to the school crossing guard program didn’t recommend or suggest privatizing it. because the savings from making it a totally civilian-run program, would be minimal.

Toronto Police Costly Paid Duty – Terms of Agreement:

The current hourly rate of pay, based on a minimum of 3 hours pay, whether it is worked or not (effective January 1, 2010) is:

Police Constables (all classifications) $65.00 (minimum $195.00)
Sergeants (when in charge of 4 or more police officers) $73.50 (minimum $220.50)
Staff Sergeant (when in charge of 10 or more police officers) $82.00 (minimum $246.00)
Staff Sergeant (when in charge of 15 or more police officers) $84.00 (minimum $252.00)(Please note that any partial hour worked will be charged the full hourly rate for both Police Constables and police equipment)Alok wants to eliminate any of the civilian jobs (which represent the lowest savings, since they are the lowest paid jobs in the Toronto Police force) while refusing to look at ways to save on the present extremely costly practices within the police force, which he supports.

Toronto Police Services Board chairman Alok Mukherjee has fired the first volley in the battle to rein in police spending before the budget review and approval process begins for 2013.

Alok Mukherjee wants to privatize 700 school cross guards in Toronto, rather than looking at the overly costly practices of the police department. The Toronto Police Service Board, in which Mukherjee is Chair, hired a company to conduct an efficiency study and they did not recommend privatization. This same company was not hired by Mukherjee to conduct an efficiency study on the Toronto Police force, in an effort to identify ways to eliminate or reduce unnecessary costs to Toronto taxpayers.

Mukherjee has written a report that suggests outsourcing the school crossing guard program and making changes to court security — areas that together cost more than $57 million.

With these recommendations, to be presented at the board meeting April 19, Mukerjee has aligned himself with others who have suggested separating core and non-core policing services, including the provincial Don Drummond report.

Reducing the workforce and contracting out services is also in keeping with the current governance philosophy at city hall, where Mayor Rob Ford’s administration has been working toward outsourcing services such as garbage pick-up.

Police Chief Bill Blair, who is conducting his own organizational review, would not comment on Mukerjee’s recommendations.

Mukherjee’s report suggests the $7 million crossing guard program can be outsourced at lower cost thanks to savings in supervision and co-ordination.

About 700 crossing guards across the city are paid $11.33 per hour and get a 12 per cent travelling allowance and 4 per cent vacation pay.

In each police division, at least one police officer is assigned to co-ordinate guards within the division.

To save on court security costs of about $47 million, Mukherjee is calling for a hybrid delivery model: Toronto police would provide only services that can’t be done by others under the law and for public safety.

Court Services now employs more than 700 of the service’s 2,500 civilian employees. There are 16 court locations across Toronto, with a total of 257 courtrooms.

Since 1990, the cost of providing prisoner transportation and security in court facilities has risen from less than $16 million to about $47 million, Mukherjee’s report says.

The province has agreed to provide partial funding for court services over seven years. But Mukherjee says court security will continue to put pressure on the police budget because the province’s commitment is for a fixed amount, not indexed to inflation.

The chair wants Blair to issue a Request For Proposals no later than June 2012, to outsource the crossing guard program by January 2013.

Mukerjee is also calling for discussions with the chief on a hybrid court security model that the board could consider in June.

He recommends Blair issue a Request For Interest on the hybrid court security model no later than August, with a view to implementing the changes next year.

Last year, when the mayor’s office was demanding a 10 per cent cut from all departments, the police board accepted a 2012 budget that achieved only a 4.6 per cent reduction from its original plan — and stretched that out over two years. It asked Blair to provide options for finding the full 10 per cent cut over two years.

The 2013 budget review and approval processes will begin shortly.

“It’s expected that this budget process will be complex and difficult,” Mukerjee states in the report.

Although the budget is supposed to be cut by a further 5.4 per cent, the added pressure of cost-of-living increases makes that more like 8 per cent, he says. Cutting the budget is particularly difficult because officers last year were awarded a four-year, 11.5 per cent pay increase.

An efficiency study conducted by Ernst & Young for the Toronto Police Service last year examined the crossing guard program, but didn’t recommend privatizing it. It found the savings from making the program totally civilian-run would be minimal.

Police have rigorous standards in place when appointing guards to protect children. Applicants must pass an interview, vision tests, a fitness test signed by his or her physician, and two levels of police checks. There are two hours of in-house training and three days on the road with veteran guards at various types of intersections.

No one with a criminal record is accepted, and if an applicant has obtained a pardon for a criminal offence, proof must be provided. If a conditional or absolute discharge has been received, proof that the RCMP has sealed the records must be provided.

In Mukherjee’s recommendation, the new provider for the school crossing guard program would remain accountable to the board for quality and standards of service.

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