Toronto: Police Performing “Paid Duty”

Update: see previous posts – 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”

Police after hours "paid duty" includes escorting funeral processions. ADRIAN WYLD / CP
Police after hours “paid duty” includes escorting funeral processions. ADRIAN WYLD / CP

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A fresh crackdown is in order on after hours “paid duty” enjoyed by Toronto police. Earlier reform hasn’t reduced the cost of these cops-for-hire.

It’s a mystery even police have trouble explaining.

Upset by rising costs associated with Toronto’s cops-for-hire program, city council instituted reforms in 2011 designed to limit a windfall enjoyed by off-duty officers.

Results of that change are now apparent: businesses and the public are lavishing even more money on “paid duty” police. It’s not clear why, but this much is certain: council needs to take meaningful action to curb the cost of this over-generous perk for those in blue.

In the absence of effective controls, it’s a burden that just keeps growing. The Star’s Betsy Powell has found that $26.1 million was paid to off-duty Toronto police last year. That’s almost $2 million more than what was issued in 2009, before council’s attempt at reform.

Under the paid duty program, officers earn extra money while off duty escorting parades and funeral processions, supervising crowds at concerts, sports events and other community gatherings, overseeing film shoots and standing at construction sites.

Police officer leaning on a Bobcat at a construction site at the corner of Yonge & Queen Street. Toronto Police Officer performing "paid duty" at $65.00 an hour, for a minimum of three (3) hours.
Police officer leaning on a Bobcat at a construction site at the corner of Yonge & Queen Street.
Toronto Police Officers are now performing “paid duty” at $68.00 an hour, for a minimum of three (3) hours (a minimum of $204.00), since the Toronto Police Union raised the “paid duty” rates by 4.6%. Over 3000 Toronto Police Officers made over $100,000.00 in 2013 and the Police Union were able to rake in over $26 million in paid duty in the same year.

Businesses and government agencies using the service shell out a minimum of $68 an hour for each police officer, with every participating cop entitled to at least three hours pay. It’s a sweet deal, especially since this work often consists of little more than standing around a construction site drinking coffee, or watching a sports game.

There’s no maximum limit on how many paid duty hours an officer can volunteer to perform, with one dedicated rent-a-cop collecting almost $100,000 by moonlighting an average 29 hours a week in 2009.

Concerned about the money society pours into this service, council changed the rules on paid duty, for example by easing circumstances where construction companies are required to have an officer on site. City permits and contracts were fine-tuned to remove, where possible, a requirement for police.

Demand for this service was expected to drop as a result. But, instead, it went up. Powell found that officers were hired for about 51,500 paid duty assignments last year — about 10,600 more than in 2009.

There are no good answers as to why. It’s possible that businesses hiring off-duty police don’t realize rules have been tweaked and that a traditional rent-a-cop may no longer be necessary. If so, a public information campaign is in order telling interested parties that they can skip this expense.

It’s also possible that the city’s reforms haven’t gone far enough to make a real difference. If that’s the case, this issue should be re-opened and a fresh set of changes — with the capacity to make a real difference — should be put in place.

Agencies and businesses in many other cities don’t spend nearly the amount on off-duty police that those in Toronto do. It’s been a problem for more than a quarter-century and is overdue for a fix.

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