What Difference Does A Hat Make When You Are Fighting Crime? – Ward 33 E-Blast September 21st
Toronto Police Chief, Mark Saunders, and Police Union President, Mike McCormack, spent this past week in a spat over whether officers should report to work in their uniform peaked hats, or a union logo-emblazoned baseball cap. McCormack lead this action to protest what he says is a lack of progress in hiring 80 new police officers.
This particular column doesn’t need to be a very long read. Here are the facts:
1. When the Mayor and I joined the Toronto Police Services Board at the beginning of this term of office the police budget was the largest and the fastest growing line item in the City of Toronto operating budget.
2. Many, many community members, community leaders and citizen coalitions expressed their displeasure with how large the police budget is.
3. Building on extensive work and research commissioned by the previous Toronto Police Services Board, we embarked on a massive Transformational Change program, now called The Way Forward. It is designed to not only save money but also to change police culture.
4. The task force struck to implement The Way Forwardincludes members of the police union, senior officers, key members of the business community and, of course, the Chief of Police and the Chair of our Police Services Board. The union President is not a voting member of the task force but he knows the steps.
5. Some additional officers are currently going through hiring and training. Despite our budget reduction goal to freeze all new hires for now, more officers retired in the first two quarters of 2017 than originally forecast. Period. The union boss, Mike McCormack, knows this is the case and he knows how long the hiring and training process takes.
6. Some officers are being promoted this month, despite a freeze on promotions, because they have been in “Acting” positions to back fill retirements. It has been determined that these job functions will be needed permanently. Given that 200 officers will retire this year, and approximately 150 retired in each of the past 2 years, it is obvious that at least some promotions would need to be filled because they represent crucial functions. The new promotions will be required across all three years of implementation of The Way Forward program. These are not the result of any “bowing to union pressures” but represent sound human resources decisions.
7. Change is difficult, even when it is necessary. There were 5561 uniformed officers in the 2012 budget. In the 2018 budget there will be 4950. With technological changes, it may be possible to get as low as 4750. Our Chief of Police is actively looking at new ways of policing and constructively questioning what should and shouldn’t be done by police. Despite a publicity campaign mounted by the head of the Toronto Police Union, it should be recognized by all that for Chief Saunders the first principle of all this change is not to jeopardize the safety of community members or officers.
We press on. The Way Forward is a three year program to bring about change. While we expect that a range of opinions will be expressed from all stakeholders across our community, the Toronto Police Services Board is confident we will end up in a better place than we started in.