Toronto: City Councillors Raise Issues Surrounding Toronto Police “Paid Duty”

Update: see previous posts – May 11, 2014 Toronto: Police Performing “Paid Duty”, April 22, 2014 Paid duty means Toronto cops make out like bandits: Hume, 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”

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Property of Ontario Motor Vehicle Tickets OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConstables keeping their eyes on pylons at construction sites, or guarding equipment at construction sites receive $68.00 an hour (a minimum of $204.00) after the Toronto Police Union raised the rates on January 1, 2014. Now the Union has raised the rates by 4.6% bringing paid duty up to a minimum of $68.00 an hour (or one-and-a-half times a first-class officer’s yearly salary of $91,000.00). The Toronto Police Union made over 26 million off of paid duty in 2013.

The Toronto Police Services Board voted for a sweeping review of the paid-duty system Thursday after board members challenged the practice and the $26.1 million that off-duty cops collected moonlighting last year.

Chief Bill Blair also shocked the monthly meeting by announcing an internal investigation into remarks made by a board member.

“Councillor (Mike) Del Grande made a number of very, very serious allegations, including allegations that were, if proven true, are criminal in nature,” Blair said to stunned silence in the auditorium at police headquarters.

Blair has asked the force’s professional standards branch to investigate Del Grande’s comments about paid-duty police officers allegedly demanding “more money or give us food,” which could be considered extortion.

Del Grande, one of three city councillors on the civilian oversight board, made several impassioned and animated speeches Thursday about the “exorbitant” amount of money cops earn in their spare time.

He recalled working as a flagman for a construction company in the mid-to-late ’70s, while he was a student saving for university tuition. “It offered me an opportunity,” he said.

The Scarborough councillor said he knows “for a fact” police officers at the time bullied construction companies into replacing flagmen with cops, in part by falsely claiming they were required under the Highway Traffic Act.

Decades later, when he was city budget chair in 2010-11, Del Grande said he examined paid-duty in police departments across Canada and found “there wasn’t anyone close to us.”

This, he noted, when 3,000 police officers earned $100,000 plus last year, three times more than the average salary of his residents living in his Scarborough Agincourt ward, and when 124,000 people are unemployed in Toronto.

Del Grande then turned to two community charity events which he called the Armenian and rib festivals. Organizers complained that Toronto police dictated the number of paid-duty officers they would require and to “add insult to injury . . . there was an expectation, not said directly, but an expectation that there were going to be free tickets for the ribs and there’s going to be free tickets to eat at the Armenian festival.

“Not only that but fellow colleagues would be coming down to also get some free tickets as well too. And people felt intimidated, organizers of those two events, they would go nuts that I was saying this, but they were afraid.”

Del Grande said he raised the issue with people at police headquarters.

“Our public should not be afraid of police, it makes no sense, that this goes on.”

Del Grande also related an anecdote about directing traffic outside an east-end park at an community-environment day he hosted, while a paid-duty officer stood around doing nothing.

“Is that the social covenant that we want in our society? People making big bucks — but then saying $100,000 isn’t enough, I should have the right for the second job,” he said.

“I always fear that policing is starting to become, focusing on paid duty, it takes away from the main core business, which is policing. Do we police or do we rent a cop?”

Board members also approved Councillor Frances Nunziata’s motion to express “disappointment” to the Toronto Police Association for bumping the hourly paid duty rate by 4.6 per cent this year, from $65 to $68 an hour for a constable.

A paid-duty sub-committee, including Del Grande, Councillor Michael Thompson and board member Andrew Pringle, will consult with various city departments and report back to the board at its July 17 meeting.

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Blair told reporters he will speak to Del Grande and community groups “about their experience.”

“If they have any information or any evidence of misconduct on the part of any police officer, I’ll deal with it,” Blair said.

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