Update: see previous posts – November 13, 2012 Paid Duty: Toronto Police Cash Cow Continues Uninterrupted, September 26, 2011 Toronto Police Paid Duty for Construction Jobs To Discontinue, May 5, 2011 Toronto Police – Highest Paid in Country, September 21, 2010 CRA review Toronto Police’ “Paid Duty” and “Free Parking”
Open Streets TO organizers shocked to discover their biggest cost is police, and it’s time to fix that.
There are those who are paid to only stand and wait. In this city, that means the police, lots and lots of them. They can be seen hanging around just about every festival, construction site, concert, marathon, parade . . . And although they do little, they get paid a lot, between $66.50 and $83.50 an hour.
As organizers of the proposed street closure discovered, it adds up. The cost of closing Yonge and Church between Bloor and Queen and Bloor from Parliament to High Park four Sunday mornings, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., comes in at $840,000.
That’s how much it will cost to have a cop at every corner; $210,000 a morning, four mornings.
The intention, of course, was to borrow an idea that has helped other cities reclaim their downtown core. The closures are temporary, and designed to bring out pedestrians, cyclists and intoxicate them with freedom of the street, if only briefly.
“What I don’t understand,” says councillor Krystin Wong-Tam, speaking on behalf of all Torontonians, “is why this isn’t part of normal police activity.”
The law requires police be on hand, but police only show up if they’re paid, and not always even then.
As Wong-Tam points out, it’s one thing to ask sponsors to help promote the event, quite another to impose on their generosity to pay for the Boys in Blue.
And apparently no one but badge-wearing cops will do. “We asked the police to give us names of private security firms we could use, but they couldn’t,” she says. “That would cost more like $20 an hour not $85. The police weren’t able to say why it cost that amount. But in a police report to the city, they said they would need 260 officers to man every single intersection and end street along the route.”
“It’s a staggering amount,” Wong-Tam laments. “Police costs are our biggest obstacle.”
Though paid duty has its reasons, in Toronto it’s gone too far. In 2006, when Waterfront Toronto closed a section of Queens Quay for 10 days, the police bill was more than $200,000, at least a quarter of the total cost of the event.
Naturally, the police love it. They make a lot of money, almost $30 million annually, much of it from public agencies and departments. This is in addition to the $928 million the city gave the force last year.
Wong-Tam calls paid duty “exorbitant” and who could disagree? If Mayor Rob Ford had meant what he said about ending the gravy train, police headquarters would have been his first stop.
Speaking of Ford, he has made no secret of his opposition to the proposal. He fears it will create “traffic chaos” that will lead to confusion and inconvenience for people like him. Yet Open Streets has occurred in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and many other cities, all of which survived — even enjoyed — the experience. Not only that, local merchants enjoyed increased sales and went home happy for a change.
Wong-Tam and her colleagues aren’t sure what will happen to Open Streets; the original plan was to close the roads on July 24 and August 3, 17 and 31. Given police costs and official hostility, it’s too early to tell.
Yet this sort of program would enhance any city; Toronto is no exception. It is a way for people to explore the city safely and maybe inspire them to go beyond their own neighbourhood into the wider community.
The “traffic chaos” argument is not only tired, it comes from an earlier time, one that time, if not Torontonians, has forgotten.
Paid Duty Increases and Method of Payment Changes:
In September, 2010 the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) decided to review the Toronto Police force’s “paid duty” policy and the 180 officer’s a day that work it and the parking that officers use to park their private vehicle’s when they park at work. At that time, all officers performing paid duty were paid in cash (minimum of three (3) hours at the beginning of the assignment). After the CRA reviewed the paid duty, which is jealously guarded by police and the Toronto Police Services, the practice of paying cash to officers changed and now customers must pay, at least ten (10) days prior to the paid duty assignment, by certified cheque, money order or visa and mastercard to Toronto Police Services. Officers performing paid duty are no longer allowed to accept cash from customers.
The hourly rate of pay for police, equipment and animals (dogs/horses) increased on January 1, 2014 (it can be raised at any time by the Toronto Police Union):
|Constables||Was $65.00 (minimum $195.00), Now $66.50 (minimum $199.50) (All classifications).|
|Sergeants||Was $73.50 (minimum $220.50), Now $75.00 (minimum $225.00) (When in charge of 4 of more police officers)|
|Staff Sergeant|| Was $82.00 (minimum $246.00), Now $83.50 (minimum $250.50) (When in charge of 10 or more officers)|
(When in charge of 10 or more police officers; a Police Sergeant and a Staff Sergeant will also be required.) (Please note that any partial hour worked will be charged the full hourly rate for both Police Constables and police equipment)