Unacceptable Risks in Reduced Budget
Chief Myron Demkiw said the City of Toronto’s proposal for a $12.6 million reduction in the Toronto Police Service (TPS) budget will result in unacceptable risks to public safety.
Speaking at the Toronto City Council Budget Committee meeting at City Hall on January 18, he asked the city to meet the Service’s proposed net operating budget for 2024 of $1.865 billion, which is a 1.7% increase from last year.
“Any reduction to our modest and below-the-rate inflation ask of 1.7 per cent will present an unacceptable risk to our ability to provide the adequate and effective police services that are required by legislation,” said the Chief. “A $12.6 million cut will create unacceptable risks and imperil the Service’s ability to ensure public safety, to offer community policing and to proactively patrol the city.”
Demkiw noted the city’s population and overall budget continues to increase while the allocation to TPS and to public safety continues to decrease.
“This is happening despite the fact that we have been public about our response times and major crime, including violent carjackings, home invasions and auto theft that have reached unprecedented levels in our city, contributing to a feeling of insecurity amongst many of our constituents,” he said.
The priority one response time in Toronto is 22 minutes.
“As the response time to emergency 9-1-1 calls continues to increase and the Service often has no cars available to attend as it stands now, a cut of this magnitude will further degrade our capacity to respond quickly to protect our residents,” Demkiw pointed out. “Any approved cut will also lead to the further degradation of police services and we will not be able to hire the police officers we require. We can only do that if our proposed budget is approved by City Council.”
For the past 13 years, there has been 600 fewer police officers on the road.
“In fact, today we only have 37 more officers than we had in 1999 despite, what we all will agree, is a considerably different world in terms of population, crime and complexity,” the Chief said. “As I visit Divisions and Units across the city, I am almost always asked about the state of our budget. It is top of mid across our membership than any other time in my memory. This concern is due to the extreme and relentless pressures our officers are facing on the road as the population continues to grow at exponentially high rates and the public’s calls to police for emergency assistance continue to grow while we have fewer officers in cars available to respond.”
Since October 7, Toronto police officers have managed over 300 demonstrations and special events in the city.
“We are unique as a police service in many ways and this is one of them,” Demkiw added. “The number of demonstrations and events we have managed in the past three months is higher than any other city has experienced in Canada and we expect that to continue. These events which have been planned and unplanned have anywhere than several dozen to more than 25,000 people.”
To effectively manage the unpredictability of the demonstrations, the Public Safety Response Team was redeployed to the exclusive control of the Unit Commander responsible for Project Resolute.
The project was launched to increase police visibility and presence in Jewish communities, along with cultural centres, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship across the city.
“Of course, this removes these officers from other duties, something that we continuously have to do to meet emerging policing needs,” the Chief said. “Our budget constraints compel us to make these very difficult decisions. Despite the pressure and redeployments, our members continue to do phenomenal work during these unprecedented times even as our resources are strained more than ever.
“The history of constraints we have endured is definitely compromising officer and civilian wellness. The members of the Toronto Police Service are committed to keeping our communities safe and I again thank them for the extraordinary work they do each and every day, often under very challenging and increasingly volatile circumstances.”
The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) unanimously approved the budget.
TPSB Executive Director Dr. Dubi Kanengisser said the service delivery level must be considered adequate to meet the growing and complex city demands.
“Since 2013, the Service has seen four budgets coming in at net zero or lower with an overall increase throughout the period that has been significantly below the rate of inflation despite the continued growth in both the size of our city and the complexity of our policing challenges,” he said. “These savings came at a cost. Quite simply, service levels are at an unacceptable place to support what our city needs.”
TPS Chief Administrative Officer Svina Dhaliwal delivered a presentation outlining the need to provide adequate policing levels as required under the new Community Safety and Policing Act noting that the unique characteristics of Toronto must be taken into account.
“We are the fastest-growing city in North America – we have grown, as the Chief mentioned, by more than 460,000 residents since 2010. Putting that into perspective that is the equivalent of London, Ontario,” said Dhaliawal, noting London has 600 police officers. “This expontential growth is expected to continue and accelerate in the past two years where we are anticipated to grow as much as we’ve done in the past seven years in the past two years.”
Dhaliwal said that historically for every 100,000 increase in population calls to 9-1-1 increase by 65,000. This does not account for the over 27 million visitors to the city, 40% of Canadian headquarters and 87 of the 108 consulates that increase policing complexity.
Read Chief Demkiw’s full remarks:
Good morning City Councillors and all guests here at City Hall.
I am pleased to be here and to have the opportunity to discuss our Budget, which was unanimously approved in December by the Toronto Police Services Board.
I need to underline the significance of this approval. The body charged with the independent oversight of our Service heard me and all of Command say that this budget is required for us to try to meet adequate and effective policing for the residents of our city.
You will see that I am accompanied by a number of my colleagues today. The entire Command of the Toronto Police Service is present for two reasons.
One, to ensure we are able to answer any questions you may have about the complexities of policing our growing city, and two, and more importantly, to convey to you how critically important we consider this modest budget is to our Service’s ability to serve our city as needed.
I would like to introduce the Command of the Toronto Police Service.
You will remember our Chief Administrative Officer, Svina Dhaliwal, from last year’s Budget meetings. She is accompanied by our Director of Finance, Cindy Grant, who many of you will also know. These two talented members manage our budget planning and I am proud to work with them.
Many of you will know Deputy Chief Lauren Pogue, Community Safety Command. She has been front and centre on some of our public communications regarding many public safety issues in the City in recent months. She is accompanied by Staff Superintendent Kelly Skinner.
Chief Information Officer, Colin Stairs is with us today, available to answer your questions on what is possible in terms of modernizing our systems and what type of investment would be necessary to do so. Also, Deputy Chief Rob Johnson, of our Specialized Operations Command is here today. His team is leading our Service’s response to impacts of the Middle East crisis in Toronto. He is accompanied by Staff Superintendent Pauline Gray of Detective Operations.
Also here today is Dr. Dubi Kanengisser, Executive Director of the Toronto Police Services Board and he will provide remarks.
I am committed to supporting Mayor Chow and to working with her during these challenging times. However, the city-staff recommended budget for the police amounts amounts to a significant cut to what we need and what we will be able to do going forward.
As I have said before, and I will repeat here to be on the record, again, that any reduction to our modest, below-the-rate of inflation ask of 1.7%, will present an unacceptable risk to our ability to provide the adequate and effective police services that are required by legislation.
Despite months of staff to staff discussions, we learned at the 11th hour that the City plans to reduce our budget by more than half of our required amount needed to avoid further degradation of policing in this city.
A $12.6 Million dollar cut will create unacceptable risk and imperil the Service’s ability to ensure public safety, to offer community policing, and to proactively patrol the city – in short, to provide adequate and effective policing to the people of Toronto, your constituents.
I do ask of the city, what options were weighed to determine that a $12.6 Million dollar cut to policing was responsible and would not impact the public’s safety and adequate and effective policing in Toronto.
Our city’s population – as well as the City of Toronto’s overall budget - continues to increase, while the City’s allocation to the Toronto Police Service and to public safety continues to decrease. This is happening despite the fact that we have been public about our response times, and that major crime including violent car jackings, home invasions and auto theft have reached unprecedented levels in our city, contributing to a feeling of insecurity amongst many of your constituents.
As response times to emergency 9-1-1 calls continue to increase and the Service often has “no cars available” to attend as it stands now, a cut of this magnitude will further degrade our capacity to respond quickly to protect our residents.
I also would like to correct some misinformation about the impact of the City’s proposed cut to the police budget. If City Council approves the city’s cut, it will lead to further degradation of policing services – and - we will NOT be able to hire the police officers we require. We can only do that if our proposed budget of a 1.7% increase, is approved by City Council.
I will add that since 2011, we have 600 fewer police officers on the road. In fact, today we only have 37 more officers than we did in 1999, despite what I’m sure we would all agree is a considerably different world in terms of population, crime and complexity.
As I visit Units and Divisions across the city, I am almost always asked about the state of our budget. It is more top-of-mind across our membership than at any other time in my memory.
It is my informed view that this concern is due to the extreme and relentless pressures our officers are facing on the road, as the population continues to grow at exponentially high rates and the public’s calls to police for emergency assistance continue to grow, while we have fewer officers and cars available to respond. In fact, as those here today will know, our response times to priority 1 emergency calls is at an unprecedented and dangerous high of 22 minutes. I hope you agree that our city’s residents deserve better.
The impacts of several zero based police budgets in recent years are in full effect now.
I will take a moment to underline just one, live example of the pressures our officers are facing.
Our officers have worked tirelessly to manage more than 310 demonstrations and special events since October 7th.
We are unique as a police service in many ways. This is one of them. The number of demonstrations that we have managed over the past 3 months is higher than any other city has experienced in Canada, and we can expect that to continue.
These events, which have been both planned and unplanned, have anywhere from several dozen to more than 25,000 people. We understand the disruption and concern that many of these demonstrations have caused. And we also know, that many of our residents have been unaware of these large scale events, and I attribute that to the excellent policing our members have provided to help keep our city safe.
As a measure to enhance the Service’s ability to effectively manage the unpredictability of the demonstrations we have encountered, the Public Safety Response Team has been redeployed to the exclusive control of the Area Commander responsible for Project Resolute. Of course, this removes these officers from other duties, something that we continuously have to do to meet emerging policing needs. Our budgetary constraints compel us to make these very difficult decisions.
Despite the pressure and the redeployments, our members continue to do phenomenal work during these unprecedented times, even as our resources are strained more than ever. The history of constraints we have endured is definitely compromising officer and civilian wellness.
The members of the Toronto Police Service are committed to keeping our communities safe and I again thank them for extraordinary work they do each and every day, often under very challenging and increasingly volatile circumstances.
The Board has unanimously recommended a budget that allows us to help us try to meet meet adequate and effective policing.
In closing, thank you for having us here today. I will ask CAO Dhaliwal to present our budget and then we will be pleased to take your questions as will Dr. Kannengisser and all our Command members and Staff Superintendents who are present.