The Toronto Police Board has unanimously approved to increase their 2022 budget to $1.1 billion. Prior to agreeing to the decision, Interim Police Chief James Ramer reasoned why the Toronto Police can no longer afford a lack of increase to their budget, citing now as “a time where demand for service has grown in one of the fastest growing services in North America,” Ramer told Global News.
A myriad of key challenges are noted in the police’s official budget report, including the city’s rising urban population, more shooting incidents, automobile thefts, increase in the number and length of calls, legislative impacts, and the ongoing effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With these issues taken into account, the police services’ priorities intend to focus on “maintaining service levels with continued growth in workload, preventing hate crimes, combating gang and gun violence,” and investing in safety programs such as the Vision Zero Road Safety Program along with Neighborhood Community Officer program, according to the report.
Connie Osborne, the media relations manager for the Toronto Police, states that “Over the last five years, the Toronto Police Service has worked hard to do more with less. The proposed amount is not only below inflation but does not require a larger portion of the City’s budget.” According to Osborne, the service requested the 2.3 per cent increase after having “a zero-based budget for three of the previous five years.”
The budget increase has been met with some backlash from community members and activists who call for a defunding or reallocating of police funds. According to Global News, in the Toronto Police Services Board meeting when a community member called for the defunding of the police by “at least 50 per cent,” Mayor John Tory remarked the request as “impossible.”
When inquired about the push for a defunding of police, Osborne maintains that “community trust is of the utmost importance” to the Toronto Police and that Chief Ramer is “dedicated to reform and transparency and as such, the Service is committed to addressing a set of 81 Recommendations composed by the board and collected from the community.”
James Sheptycki, a criminology professor at York, feels that “from the Chief’s perspective, the budget increase will allow the Toronto Police to carry on into next year without further erosion of morale.”
Osborne continues, saying that the request will not increase the Service’s share of the City of Toronto’s overall budget and will not increase the total complement of the service, “but will allow them to continue their service and also have some flexibility to reallocate existing personnel to existing and emerging critical areas.”
“The city needs a joined-up government so that these organizations work together constructively — taking away money from one public service in order to fund another is a bad idea,” says Sheptycki, with the organizations referenced being the public servants in education, healthcare, and social work.
“Police professionals understand that well-paid and resourced teachers, health professionals, social workers and other first responders are vitally important to wellbeing and public safety that policing alone cannot achieve. The need for police would not disappear, but it could be a smaller proportion of the mix if public sector workers all had improved pay and conditions.”
Sheptycki feels that the increase “will not change things that much.” He also acknowledges that “there is a need for improvement in the police sector in Canada, and never more so than now. Police critics are useful in pushing for change, but outsiders frequently don’t understand how positive change can be affected inside organizations.”