Chief: Invest in Frontline Officers to Keep City Safe

By Chief of Police Myron Demkiw
Office of the Chief

As published in the Toronto Star 'Toronto police chief: Invest in front-line officers to keep Toronto safe' on February 1, 2024:

The average priority one response time in Toronto: 22.6 minutes.

That is not acceptable to me.

It is not acceptable to anyone I know in our great city.

The fact is, the Toronto Police Service is stretched so thin that the time it takes for our officers to arrive at the most urgent emergency calls is nearly double most other major cities across North America.


Image of police officers and vehilces with text: 22.6 minutes. Priority one response time in Toronto.


Policing is about people; 90 per cent of our budget goes to people costs. We want to be there when you need us. Torontonians don’t need a lesson in patience from their police service.

We are facing rising violent crime, hate crime, and 1.4 million emergency calls to 911 a year.

We only have 37 more officers today than we had in 1999, yet we have 600,000 more residents to serve.

Hiring freezes and four 0 per cent budget increases (2013, 2017, 2018, and 2021) forced us to cut back officers, hitting a low in 2018 that is taking years to build back.



In 2010 our priority one response time was 12.8 minutes. We had 600 more officers back then, with 5,615 total uniform strength and nearly half a million fewer citizens to serve. That’s the difference 600 officers make.

Fewer officers means longer response times. By 2018, response time climbed to 19 minutes and it’s been rising ever since, along with our population, crime rates and calls for service. There are not enough officers available when needed.

To be blunt, cutting $12.6 million from the Toronto Police Services Board approved budget will result in unacceptable risks to public safety. Crime was up 18 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022. Emergency calls for service are up 19 per cent.

Without the increase, our plan to hire four classes of 90 police officers each will not be possible. We have already instituted a partial civilian hiring freeze due to budget uncertainty.

The current reality experienced by our residents keeps me up at night. For example, earlier this month a Toronto resident called 911 at 5:37 a.m. to report three suspects trying to steal his truck. He yelled and they fled. While waiting for police, he retrieved a cellphone dropped by a suspect; 17 minutes later his door was kicked in.

“Give me my phone or I’ll shoot!” screamed the intruder. He threw the phone and the intruder fled. By the time officers arrived, at 6:27 a.m., it had been 50 minutes since he called 911. Enough time for the suspects to return and victimize the complainant a second time.

With 180 to 200 retirements expected a year, any front-line gains in 2024 will be cancelled out by 2025, with no more recruits in the training and hiring stream to be deployed.

Twenty-five per cent of Toronto Police members are eligible to retire and training new officers takes many months. We also have 180 sergeant and staff sergeant vacancies to fill to supervise our junior front-line and a shortage of civilian professionals to clear the growing backlog of digital evidence to disclose and close cases.

Toronto’s ratio of police officers to residents is leaner than any other major city in North America. That ratio does not include the 27 million visitors to Canada’s national sports, entertainment and business hub every year, which adds to public safety pressures.

Since Oct. 7, events in the Middle East have impacted Toronto, more than any other city in Canada. We have spent $7.5 million responding to more than 340 events. We had to redeploy officers and that means other work is not being done.

There is no more room in our budget to reallocate without cutting critical services. We can’t let response times fall any further or let cases go unsolved. We can’t spread our officer’s time any thinner as our city’s population grows by up to 100 thousand a year.

This budget matters at an unprecedented time in our city, when our services are needed most. I am committed to working with Mayor Olivia Chow. We are aligned on the challenges this city is facing financially. Together we share a collective responsibility to keep Toronto safe.



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