Update: see previous posts – May 15, 2014 Toronto: City Councillors Raise Issues Surrounding Toronto Police “Paid Duty”, 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”
The Toronto Police Association says it will file a complaint with the civilian oversight board over the “ill-informed and inflammatory” comments made by one of its members about officers doing paid-duty in their off hours.
“Councillor Michael Del Grande’s attack on paid duty officers and paid duties is little more than political grandstanding and posturing,” reads a statement released Friday by the TPA’s board of directors.
“Disconcerting to the Association is why a city councillor, who is also a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, would shamelessly display such a malicious bias against paid duty officers.”
The statement was distributed to the membership Friday with instructions to “please post.”
Chief Bill Blair launched an internal probe after Del Grande suggested at Thursday’s police board meeting that paid-duty officers intimidated organizers at two charity events into giving them free food. Blair stunned the meeting by saying that some of Del Grande’s assertions, “if proven true, are criminal in nature.”
Paid-duty assignments originating from the city have been reduced after council, three years ago, reduced or eliminated the requirement to hire off-duty officers for traffic or crowd control at many sites and events involving city spending.
For this reason, the city and Del Grande “overstepped their role in regards to paid duties,” the statement reads. “They are not the primary employer. In fact, city-directed paid duties have decreased and the majority of paid-duty assignments are requested by private organizations.”
Paid-duty requests by construction companies, sporting events, and community organizations have indeed jumped substantially, putting $26.1 million extra into officers’ pockets last year. Critics say Torontonians incur that cost indirectly, for example through higher admission fees or in the purchase price of a new condo.
“We vehemently support the Chief’s call for an investigation into Del Grande’s serious allegations of misconduct by our officers,” the TPA board said in its statement. Del Grande did not respond to a request for comment, though his assistant acknowledged he is aware of the statement.
The Scarborough councillor wasn’t the only board member to challenge Blair about the long-standing practice of offering Toronto officers for hire.
Councillor Michael Thompson, who also sits on the police board, said he is aware of community groups who are cancelling planned events “because they can’t afford the price tag for police presence.”
Blair disputed Thompson’s suggestion that the TPS dictates the number of off-duty officers people must hire.
“We don’t have a rule that says they must hire police officers, but we tell them if you want us, this is what is required and this is what you have to do,” Blair said. If an event planner wants to hire a single police officer to manage their liability for thousands of people, “we aren’t able to do that,” Blair said.
Blair added that the provincial Highway Traffic Act and city bylaws require police officers to be present in certain instances.
Del Grande, however, said the HTA is “very prescriptive” and says officers are only needed for traffic when two lanes of traffic going in the same direction are blocked or when the speed limit is higher than 90 km/h.
“Those are it,” Del Grande said. “So when we talk about one lane being shut down in both ways, traffic officers are not required, but it has become the cultural practice that you need police to do everything.”
The TPA, in its statement, accused the media of unfairly portraying paid-duty rates as excessive. The TPS sets the rate and, in the past five years, has “only increased paid duty rates by 2.3 per cent with a further 2.3 per cent increase on July 1, 2013.” The increase to $68 an hour — higher ranks cost more — is in line “with one-and-a-half times a first-class officer’s salary,” the TPA statement says.
The police services board has ordered a review of paid-duty policing.