Toronto council advised to let non-police personnel direct traffic

Update: see previous posts – Mar.29/16 Toronto Police No Longer Coming to Scene of Minor Collisions, but what’s Minor?, Mar.21/16 Toronto Police to Eliminate “21-Foot Rule.”, Dec.18/15 City Plans to Tinker With $100 Million Portion of Billion Dollar Police Budget,December 11, 2015 Toronto’s Mayor & Police Chief Not Interested in Saving Taxpayer’s Money, February 25, 2015 Toronto: Police Paid Duty Earnings Now Added to Sunshine List, May 16/14 Toronto: Police Performing “Paid Duty” Demand Free Street Parking As Well, May 16, 2014 Toronto: Toronto Police Union Has $26.1 Million Reasons to Defend “Paid Duty” and Attack Critics, May 15, 2014 Toronto: City Councillors Raise Issues Surrounding Toronto Police “Paid Duty”, November 13, 2012 Paid Duty: Toronto Police Cash Cow Continues Uninterrupted, September 26, 2011 Toronto Police Paid Duty for Construction Jobs To Discontinue,  September 21, 2010 CRA review Toronto Police’ “Paid Duty” and “Free Parking”

Toronto City Hall. Earlier this year, Tory and the seven-member police board signed off on a contract that gives officers wage increases of 2.75 per cent this year, 1.95 per cent next year, 1.9 per cent in 2017 and 1.75 per cent in 2018. That follows two previous contracts that bumped pay in excess of 20 per cent over seven years.
Toronto City Council will have an opportunity to review their own rules. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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A new city staff report suggests properly trained civilians could do the job safely at less cost — if the province will allow it.

Lesser-paid special constables — not just police officers — should be permitted to direct traffic, and Toronto council should ask the province to make the legislative changes necessary to permit it, city staff say in a new report.

“City staff suggest that police powers should not be a prerequisite for directing traffic, and that other persons with appropriate training could fulfill the function safely and in a more cost-effective manner,” says the report.

That’s one of several recommendations in the report on the city’s cops-for-hire paid-duty program. It is on the agenda of next Monday’s executive committee meeting.

The province has already indicated “they see no legislative barriers” to the use of special constables,” the report states.

But reform in Toronto’s costly use of paid-duty officers is a long time coming.

Constables 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 police union has always attacked critics of their paid duty. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

For years, along with calls to rein in the $1-billion-plus police budget, critics have questioned why highly paid and trained officers should receive extra money to guard construction sites, Blue Jays’ games, movie sets or special events when they’re off duty.

There is always pushback from the Toronto Police Association.

“The reason you have police officers is because they’re trained professionals, you have a police officer presence; risk, as far as insurance coverage, you have a professional out there,” TPA president Mike McCormack said Monday.

McCormack said the recommendations are a “smokescreen to get at on-duty policing and create two-tier policing.”

Indeed, for cash-strapped municipalities, there is a growing appetite for a two-tiered model. The Durham Regional Police Services Board recently wrote to the province asking it to allow more police work to be outsourced to civilians.

In 2011, Toronto police rejected then city auditor general Jeff Griffiths’ advice to consider creating a separate traffic authority, similar to what exists in Vancouver. There, cheaper special constables perform authorized duties, primarily directing traffic at special events.

Retired from city hall, Griffiths is now a member of the task force that is supposed to transform the Toronto Police Service — and cut its ballooning cost, driven upward mostly by salaries and benefits. Last year, Toronto Police added 500 more names to the provincial “sunshine list,” racking up 4,645 officers who earned more than $100,000 in 2015.

In the past, the police union, which sets paid-duty rates — $68 an hour for a minimum of three hours — has cited the Highway Traffic Act (“HTA”) as the reason only sworn officers can direct traffic.

But the new report says city staff have received a legal opinion that the HTA “may not be an impediment” and special constables could be appointed “with the authority to direct traffic in temporary situations under the HTA.”

Last year, a total of 3,132 officers received $25.5 million from paid-duty work, $1.49 million coming from the budgets of city divisions and agencies, such as Toronto Water, Transportation Services, Toronto Transit Commission and Economic Development and Culture.

However, the cost to taxpayers could also be higher, because “the TPS (Toronto Police Service) collects limited information about the paid-duty requestors,” some of whom might neglect to mention they are working for the city, the report says.

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