Update: see previous posts – 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”, May 13, 2014 Toronto: Parking Enforcement Officers Don’t Ticket Police Vehicles Parked Illegally, 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”
Toronto police will now include how much an officer earns in paid duty money in calculating who makes the Sunshine List each year.
What Toronto police officers really earn, including the amount of money paid for off-duty work, will be publicly reported for the first time this year.
Other GTA forces, including Durham and York, have for several years reported what’s called “paid duty” earnings — work police officers can be hired to do by third parties during off hours, including at construction sites, road work and public events. Toronto police will do so for the first time this year as they face pushback from the union representing officers.
Since 2012, the province has required police forces to count paid duty earnings on T4 income slips, which should be tallied towards the total earnings reported to the Sunshine List — the annual provincial disclosure of any public sector salaries over $100,000.
But up until now, Toronto police have not reported those earnings. Director of finance and business management Sandra Califaretti said they recently changed how officers get that paid duty money. It’s now received from the service instead of directly from contractors. It’s because of that change, she said, that those earnings will now be reported this year.
The issue of paid duty drew strong criticism and calls for review at the police board last summer after outgoing Chief Bill Blair — whose contract is up in April — announced the payout for paid duty work totalled more than $26 million in 2013.
The Sunshine List is typically released at the end of March; now, with Toronto paid duty to be counted this year, the number of Toronto police officers who earn a place on it is expected to balloon.
More than a third of all officers already make the list. The last contract deal under former Mayor Rob Ford saw 2,983 officers making six figures.
The new reporting also comes just as the union and board are negotiating a new contract for officers that could see base salaries increase again. Already, any officer above the most junior rank of constable automatically earns a starting salary of $100,000 or more.
The current rate for a paid-duty officer is $68 per hour and must be hired for a minimum of three hours at $204. The rates increase if a higher-ranking officer such as a sergeant or staff sergeant is required to supervise a group of officers.
So constables, who make base salaries between $88,844 and $96,846, could easily be pushed over the reporting threshold by completing between 15 and 50 three-hour jobs.
In Durham, for example, where the police budget is also the biggest tax-supported item, nearly 60 per cent of all officers made the Sunshine List for 2013.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack argued paid duty should not be tallied for the Sunshine List because it is not paid by taxpayers. Any group or company that hires an officer must pay the service for that work.
“We believe the Sunshine List was created to show what government agencies are spending using tax dollars,” McCormack said. “This is officers who are off duty, working on their own time and it’s not of any financial impact to the taxpayers.”
Previously, paid duty was reported as a taxable benefit, but must now be reported as employment income on T4 slips, said a spokesperson for Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, president of the Treasury Board. That requirement is enforced by the Canada Revenue Agency and makes those numbers relevant to the Sunshine List.
Toronto’s police union consulted a lawyer on the issue, but appears to have lost the ability to keep paid-duty earnings secret.
“I still see no reason why it should be included,” McCormack said. “We still think that it’s not proper.”
Police spokesperson Mark Pugash told the Star a dispute with the union was “resolved” after discussions with the Ministry of Finance.
Still, issues over the amount and cost of paid duty continues to be an issue at the police board and in the community.
The board ordered a review of the whole system after Blair announced the nearly $30-million payout in May. Those numbers led former councillor and board member Mike Del Grande to decry the “exorbitant” amount officers make off duty. Members also recorded their “disappointment” with the 4.6 per cent increase in the hourly paid-duty wage that took effect last year.
Since then, the board has created a subcommittee to deal with paid duty which has done little to implement changes, instead calling for a review of the current use and guidelines in November and exploring other ways to provide a similar service.
Last year, the force came under fire for at first requiring two armed officers to staff a Grade 8 graduation. When the Star asked about the costs, the estimate was reduced to one officer for the event.