Update: see previous post – April 11, 2016 Toronto council advised to let non-police personnel direct traffic
City staff report recommends allowing trained civilians to take over some paid-duty jobs to save money
A new City of Toronto staff report is recommending changes to provincial laws that will allow the city to cut the cost of paid-duty jobs now done by police.
Toronto police officers earned $25,631,096 for paid-duty services last year, doing jobs such as monitoring construction zones and street festivals, as well as directing traffic.
On top of that, the force made an additional $1,149,049 in equipment costs and $3,844,661 in administration fees.
Taxpayers picked up $1.49 million of that price tag, nearly five per cent of what the program brought in. The rest was paid by private companies that used the officers’ services, such as film studios and construction companies.
The report, which was presented to Toronto Mayor John Tory’s executive committee Tuesday, says it would cost less to find others to perform these duties, such as paid peace officers, special constables or trained civilians.
Toronto police picked up 39,716 paid-duty assignments in 2015, filled by 3,134 officers.
Deputy Mayor Denzil-Minnan Wong is on the executive committee. He’s helping to look at possible changes to the system.
He said the changes would save taxpayers money and allow police to focus on their work.
“I see these paid duty officers standing around at construction sites pretty much doing nothing at all,” he said. “I think there are more useful things police officers could do.”
Sense of security
But the president of the Toronto Police Association, Mike McCormack, said the new proposal wouldn’t do much to cut costs.
“It has virtually no impact to the taxpayer,” he told CBC News.
Someone will always need to do the job, the head of the police union said, and most people prefer those people to be police officers.
Although police are required to direct traffic under the Highway Traffic Act, McCormack said for other duties, such as monitoring events, organizers specifically ask for police to attend.
Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker says he does hire paid-duty officers at all of his events because they have the power and authority that regular citizens don’t, offering a sense of security.
However, he says, there is room for compromise.
“You may not need 10 police officers there. You might need two police officers and eight other people who have been designated to do crowd control and guide traffic,” he said.
The report doesn’t say how much taxpayers would save if the changes were implemented.
The controversial paid-duty program has been a political hot potato for decades.
No one seems to know when it started, but mentions of the program date as far back as the 1920s, when Toronto’s then-police chief said it would likely be rescinded.