5 Modern Policing in Toronto

Our action plan is first and foremost about a smarter approach to policing. Neighbourhood-centric policing will result in improved community safety. The Service will be able to deploy the members it already has, more effectively and efficiently, and will respond more effectively to emergencies.

Previous public conversations about changes to policing in Toronto often became focused on costs, with competing perspectives from policing being too expensive, to calls for more officers. It is our hope that money does not become the focus of discussion on our final report.

In this chapter, we focus on recommendations from our interim report that illustrate this smarter approach in action. Our goal is to make sure the intent of each is clear by highlighting:

  • How it works now – a description of the current approach.
  • How it will work in the future – what will be different when the recommendation is implemented, with the caveat that many of these are strategic changes that will require careful and thoughtful implementation over the next few years.
  • Outcomes – the key benefits of the recommended approach.

Neighbourhood Policing at the Center of a Modern Police Service

How It works now

Community policing has been an operational priority of the TPS for many decades, but it has not been the primary focus. In practice, community policing has been incorporated into the daily duties of many Service members including: Community Response Unit Officers, School Resource Officers, Community Relations Officers, Crime Prevention Officers and Mounted Officers. In recent years, a limited neighbourhood officer program was rolled out to certain areas of the city. The work of these members has addressed community concerns and improved community relations.

All of these roles have helped to improve community safety and security. However, they have, for the most part, functioned as separate entities from mainstream policing. As the city has increased in size and complexity, officers have increasingly been removed from direct interaction with communities due to the demand upon them to respond to calls for service. This has resulted in a model that does not fully optimize police-community partnerships.

Officers are hired and trained with Primary Response as the principal organizational focus. New constables start their police career in Primary Response, typically patrolling in cars and responding to emergencies, other priorities and non-emergencies. Exposure to community policing is limited to a mandatory ten week assignment within their probationary period.

How It Will Work

In the future, an integrated and comprehensive program of neighbourhood policing will be the focal point of the Service’s new service-delivery model. It will be incorporated into all aspects of how the Service does business philosophically, culturally and operationally. Every neighbourhood in the city will have dedicated officers embedded within it. Neighbourhood officers will possess and be expected to continuously develop the personal and professional skills and experience required to be effective community safety collaborators and partners.

Neighbourhood officer assignments will be a minimum of three years in length, with an option to extend an officer’s tenure where appropriate. This will maximize the value of this dedicated, locally focused policing approach both to communities and to the officers working in them.

Neighbourhood officers will work in partnership with communities and service-delivery agencies to address crime, disorder, and community safety issues with an understanding of the complex needs specific to each neighbourhood. They will be proactive and use information, evidence, and neighbourhood insights to work in partnership to identify issues and co-develop solutions. This will include referrals to appropriate community resources.

Decision-making by officers will be less hierarchical. Neighbourhood officers will be empowered and supported by the Service to engage and work with the community to develop inclusive and cooperative strategies that resolve issues, build partnerships, and promote community safety. When neighbourhoods are victimized by crime or when tactical enforcement such as search warrant execution takes place, neighbourhood officers will play a crucial role by providing support immediately after the incident and through longer term plans.

Neighbourhood officers will be selected with an emphasis on core competencies that reflect high expectations for interaction, empathy, collaboration and engagement. These core competencies will be part of the training for all new and existing officers. Demonstrated achievement and ability in neighbourhood policing will be a key part of future career development for all officers including performance evaluation, promotion, and reward and recognition.

Beginning in 2019 as the hiring moratorium is lifted, neighbourhood policing will be the starting point for a career in the TPS. It will be a new officer’s year-long first assignment. This will ensure that the professional development of every officer is grounded in embracing partnerships with the residents and communities they serve.


  • A familiar, trusted police service focused on community safety and reducing victimization through collaboration, partnerships, engagement, empathy and customized service-delivery.
  • Neighbourhood officers are empowered, supported and accountable as well as trained, evaluated and rewarded based on skills and competencies that reflect community policing objectives.
  • A community-centric service-delivery model with a clear correlation between reported crime and disorder issues and police response.

Connected Officers Using Smart Mobile Technology

How It Works Now

Police cars with mobile computer workstations allow officers to write and file reports, complete other paperwork, and access databases. Cars are also physical barriers that create a sense of isolation from residents.

Officers patrolling on foot and bikes, or once they step away from their cars, are limited to communicating and receiving information through their radios. They are increasingly using personal cell phones to assist with their duties, even though this poses personal risks and security challenges.

Officers take notes in traditional paper memo books as they have since professional municipal police services were first established in the mid-19th century. Past memo books are stored and have to be physically retrieved and reviewed manually if the information they contain is required for any purpose.

Officers often spend time travelling back to one of the divisional police stations across the city to log into desktop computers to write and file reports and other necessary documentation, as well as to return phone calls and respond to emails. While they are at the police station, officers are away from their neighbourhoods and patrols.

How It Will Work

Within two to three years, neighbourhood officers will have smart mobile devices that give them access to the data, information and software they need, always and anywhere. The connected officer will not need to use personal devices for police business.

Regardless of their location, connected officers will be accessible to residents – to receive and respond to calls, emails, text messages, and other forms of electronic communication.

Connected officers will be able to prepare and file reports and other documentation from anywhere, rather than being limited to mobile workstations in cars or having to return to police stations to work at desktop computers.

Because of the Service’s investment in data analytics and modeling, all officers will be able to use their new mobile devices to access information and analysis that will give them a richer understanding of the city and specific neighbourhoods. This will include economic, social, demographic and behavioral data, as well as other information such as crime statistics.

The mobile device will include all the software that officers need to be effective, including a searchable eNotebook. This will fundamentally change how the Service can store, collect, retrieve and analyze logged information. Paper memo books will be a thing of the past.

Connected officers may also be able to take some types of official photographs with their new mobile devices in situations where an immediate photograph may be required. If and when effective and reliable voice-totext functionality becomes available, it will become more efficient for officers to dictate their notes.


  • Officers able to provide better service because of greater access to data, information and software.
  • Officers with a better understanding of the neighbourhoods they serve and are more connected and accessible to those neighbourhoods.
  • Information available to neighbourhood officers that enables them to act more independently and to make better, more timely decisions.
  • Improved ability to access officer notes.

Priority Response – Focusing on Calls that Require a Police Presence and Providing Effective Alternatives when that Presence is not Required

How It Works Now

At present, Primary Response is the cornerstone of policing – officers patrolling in cars and responding to calls for service.

Primary Response is the largest use of police resources and is a model of policing that has been in place for more than 50 years involving officers responding to every type of call for service – from high priority calls such as shootings, to non-emergencies such as minor by-law issues.

Primary Response is where all TPS recruits start their careers and develop their skills as police officers. Although recruit training currently includes a small component of community policing, the main focus is on responding to calls for service in a reactive manner.

Primary Response responds to all levels of calls for service regardless of the level of priority. Once on site, officers are responsible for resolving the call in its entirety – from controlling immediate safety concerns to evidence collection and report submission. This can be time consuming, and reduces the availability of officers to respond promptly to other calls for service.

For example:

Someone arrives home at night to find that their front door is ajar and that their home has been broken into. They don’t know whether it’s safe to enter so they call the TPS. Officers will be dispatched first and foremost because they need to make sure that the situation is safe. Once that is done, the same officers will go through the process to collect information, prepare a report and so on – a procedure that can take hours to complete.

Last year the TPS Communications Centre received two million calls of all types. Approximately 657,000 of these were calls for service, including many situations where a police response was requested but not strictly necessary. In many of these instances, residents were encouraged to report by phone or through the existing online reporting portal. However, the existence of the portal is not well known and this option is under-utilized. Of the 657,000 calls for service, 445,000 resulted in officers being dispatched.

Some of the types of incidents that can currently be reported online are vehicle damage, property damage, thefts under $5,000, bicycle thefts, graffiti and driving complaints. These non-emergency situations often involve considerable delays for residents before an officer can be dispatched. While on this type of call, officers are not available to respond to emergency calls.

How It Will Work

In the future, responses to calls that require officers to attend will have two components. The first component will be called Priority Response. The focus will be on sending officers to emergencies and other situations where prompt attendance by someone with the training and authority of a police officer is essential. With this shift in emphasis, Priority Response will be more focused on keeping residents safe in critical situations.

The second component will consist of the Investigative Support Unit (ISU). The ISU will deal with calls for service that do not involve an immediate risk to public safety or property. In some cases the Priority Response officers will attend to ensure safety needs are addressed, and then the ISU will deal with the ensuing preliminary investigation. The main function of the ISU is to be the bridge between the emergency and investigative units. They will ensure that all of the steps are taken to effectively complete the initial investigation. This will result in Priority Response officers being available when and where the public needs the Service the most.

Using our Earlier Example, this is how the Situation would Unfold:

Someone arrives home at night to find that their front door is ajar and that their home has been broken into. They don’t know whether it’s safe to enter and they call the TPS. Priority officers will be dispatched to make sure that the situation is safe. Once that is done, ISU units will attend to collect evidence and take the report, which frees up the Priority units to respond to other priority calls.

Alternative reporting mechanisms will also be expanded, reducing the requirement of police officers to physically attend locations where they are not actually required. These are situations where alternative reporting methods will be more effective, including reporting by phone, online, through the TPS app on mobile devices, and booking an appointment to file a report in person at a police station.

This expanded use of alternative reporting will allow the Service to free up officer time so that they can be deployed to neighbourhood policing and other new roles. It will also enable the TPS to provide greatly improved customer service, with fewer delays in reporting and better follow-up communications about police actions and the status of a case.

TPS recruits will no longer start their careers in Priority Response. Their first assignment will be in neighborhood policing, to provide a proactive and community focused foundation to their career – one that embraces partnerships to create safe communities.


  • Improved ability to respond to emergencies and other situations that require a police presence.
  • A more efficient and effective use of police officer training and legal authority
  • Freed up officer time that allows for officers to be redeployed to neighbourhood policing and other priorities.
  • More ways to report and fewer delays through alternative reporting mechanisms.
  • A better customer service experience and improved information flow through alternative reporting options.


Structure of the Final Report










In situations where police response was not strictly necessary, residents were encouraged to report by phone or through the existing on-line reporting portal.

However, the existence of this portal is not well known and this option is under-utilized.

A New Public Safety Response

How It Works Now

Over the past several years, the Service has responded in different ways to public safety challenges that were beyond the capacity of any one division, such as:

  • Dealing with major events such as extreme public safety incidents, searches for missing vulnerable persons and large-scale demonstrations.
  • Addressing gun violence in neighbourhoods caused predominantly by street gangs.

Major Public Safety Events

Officers are usually drawn from front-line or community duties elsewhere in the city for as long as necessary. For on-duty officers, this redeployment creates what the Service calls an “operational vacuum” – a shortage or under-resourcing for front-line or other policing duties. The deployment of off-duty officers in this manner involves significant overtime and call-back costs. Units such as TAVIS were also utilized as surge capacity.

Gun and Gang Violence

Divisions deal with gun and gang violence in various ways. However, when an issue is too significant for the local police division to manage, officers are redeployed from other operational areas. Units such as TAVIS were also brought in.

Although timely and effective in the short term, this model of policing is not a sustainable effort because it is not based on long-term, quality relationships with our communities. It is only when officers are embedded in communities as known, trusted partners that they can create strong, effective relationships.

That’s why the Service is building a new model of policing that is centered around relationships with neighbourhood officers, who are focussed on positive outcomes and known in their communities, and who can build trust through quality interactions.

How It Will Work

Bringing in extra officers to meet the needs of a complex city will still work best for major public safety events. For example, when there is an extreme event or large demonstration, the priority has been on gathering officers that have public order training. For a search for a missing, vulnerable person, the officers brought together typically have no special search training. It can also take precious time to assemble the available officers from across the city. In the future, the policing of major public safety events will be augmented by the new Public Safety Response Team (PSRT). This will be enhanced by opening up traditional divisional boundaries to allow for more fluidity in the deployment of officers.

Major Public Safety Events

  • The PSRT will be a dedicated, full-time, highly trained team with quick response capacity and a mandate to respond to specialized situations including extreme events, the protection of critical infrastructure and public spaces, searches for missing vulnerable persons and large-scale demonstrations.
  • Careful officer selection and ongoing, rigorous training and performance measurement will be key elements of PSRT. This will include a high level of technical training related to specialized situations like extreme events, critical searches, and demonstrations. Perhaps even more importantly, PSRT officers will be proficient in the most advanced levels of training related to community awareness and engagement, social investment and outcomes.
  • The PSRT will be available to be deployed quickly anywhere in the city based on real-time analysis of data and information – drawing on and being informed always by the knowledge and experience of neighbourhood officer teams.
  • In some situations, it will still be necessary to supplement the PSRT with officers drawn from other duties. In general, however, the new unit will reduce the need for overtime and call-backs.

Gun and Gang Violence

In the future, neighbourhood safety and supporting communities in crisis, including and especially where those communities are the victims of gang-related violence, will begin with modern, neighbourhood-centered policing.

  • When needed – for example, if there is a spike in gang violence – the Service will be able to assign additional neighbourhood officers with the same skills, local knowledge, and ability to work in partnerships. Success will be measured based primarily on solutions developed and positive outcomes achieved instead of numbers.
  • Neighbourhood policing will be a qualitatively different approach that focuses on neighbourhood officers who are assigned to get to know and work with a neighbourhood for a minimum of three years at a time.
  • Neighbourhood officers will have strong community awareness and the ability to engage effectively as partners with individuals and communities.


  • A more effective, efficient, and faster response to major critical and extreme events that is less dependent on pulling officers away from front-line duties.
  • A sustainable and ongoing community safety partnership with neighbourhoods through neighbourhood officers who have the skills, abilities and knowledge gained through long term assignments

Diverting Non-Policing Calls to Other City Departments and Service Providers

How It Works Now

Police officers currently respond to most calls that are received, although for some types of non-emergencies there may be long delays because of other priorities.

This includes non-emergency situations that are not really policing matters and that fall within the mandate of other City departments – such as many types of animal and noise complaints – as well as within the mandate of mental health and crisis intervention service providers.

For some of these situations, a police response makes sense because of risk or the presence of potential danger. In other situations, however, people call the police because they think they are supposed to or they don’t know who else to call. It can also be because the appropriate City department is unable to respond as quickly or doesn’t provide an after-hours service.

How It Will Work

In the future, when a call comes into the Communications Centre, Service members will assess whether the situation is an emergency that requires police attendance or if it can be safely and appropriately handled through other means such as phone contact by a Service member.

If a situation does require attendance – for example, a noisy party in a situation where a by-law officer might be at risk or an animal incident where there is an imminent threat to the safety of individuals – police officers may be dispatched. If it doesn’t, the call will be referred to the appropriate City department.


  • No resident without a service option, although it may not be a service provided by the TPS.
  • Police officers focused on situations that require their unique authority and training – a better use of policing resources.
  • Better enabling the Service to be where the public needs it the most.

Crossing Guard and Lifeguard Programs Delivered by Non-Policing Organizations

How It Works Now

The TPS administers Toronto’s school crossing guard program for schools with kindergarten to grade six children. The program has a budget of $6.8 million, with approximately 600 part-time school crossing guards. If a school guard is unable to show up for work, a police officer is dispatched to fill in. In 2015 this resulted in 3,138 hours of officer time away from police duties.

The TPS also administers the lifeguard program at Toronto’s beaches, with a budget of $1.1 million and over 90 seasonal lifeguards. At the same time, the City of Toronto operates its own lifeguard program for municipal pools across the City. In many cases the City and TPS lifeguard programs operate in locations that are just steps away from each other.

How It Will Work

The school crossing guard program and the lifeguard program at Toronto’s 13 beaches will be recognized as non-policing activities. Police officers will not be dispatched to fill in for absent crossing guards. These programs and their respective budgets of $6.8 million and $1.1 million will be transferred and the City of Toronto will decide on the most appropriate administration.


  • No impact on service to the public through the transfer of these programs.
  • A Service better able to be where the public needs it to be.
  • Officers focused on duties that only police officers can carry out.
  • Funding provided for the City department or other non-police alternative.


TPS Crossing Guard Program

The TPS administers Toronto’s School Crossing Guard Program for schools with kindergarten to grade six children.





If a school guard is unable to show up for work, a police officer is dispatched to fill in.

In 2015 this resulted in 3,138 hours of officer time away from police duties.


TPS Life Guard Program

The TPS administers the Lifeguard Program at Toronto’s beaches.





The City of Toronto operates its own lifeguard program for municipal pools accross the City.

In many cases the City and TPS Life Guard programs operate in locations that are just steps away from each other.


Divisional Boundaries that Align to Toronto’s Neighbourhoods

How It Works Now

The current structure of 17 divisions is outdated – it’s a barrier to more effective, efficient and neighbourhood-centric policing because divisional boundaries do not align to Toronto’s neighbourhoods. As well, they don’t align with how the City of Toronto organizes and deploys its services including mental health, social and crisis intervention.

Resources within and across divisions are not well coordinated to address neighbourhood needs. Administrative structures and processes make it difficult to shift resources across divisional boundaries as needed.

How It Will Work

The Service will be organized into fewer divisions. Using sophisticated and newly developed data analytics and modeling, the Service will have new operational boundaries that align with Toronto neighbourhoods and their service needs, including where possible in conjunction with the way the City of Toronto organizes its services.

Boundaries will be able to be redrawn and adjusted as needed when city neighbourhoods change. Decisions will be based on transparent data and information, and through extensive public engagement.

Through the connected officer initiative and GPS-enabled technology, the Service will be better able to ensure that it is dispatching the closest officers to an emergency, whether they’re in a car, on foot, or on a bike.

Using a gradual, phased approach, the new divisions will be created through amalgamations of existing divisions and boundary changes. This will enable the Service to reduce the number of managers, supervisors, and administrative support staff across divisions, redeploying those resources to other priorities.


  • Fewer divisions with boundaries that enable rather than get in the way of neighbourhood policing.
  • Deployment of police officers that aligns to neighbourhoods and doesn’t impact response capacity.
  • More nimble neighbourhood-based planning that can better keep pace with our changing city, to ensure that the police are where the public needs them to be.
  • Lower costs over time through streamlined and efficient use of management and administrative resources.

Smaller, More Efficient Police Stations

How It Works Now

At present police stations are one of the most obvious symbols of the relationship between police and residents. They are where equipment is stored and prisoner processing takes place. Stations are also where officers start and finish their working day.

Police stations need to be large enough to provide computer workstations and phones for officers to do paperwork, file reports, return calls, send emails, and other administrative tasks – especially if they are on foot or on bikes and don’t have access to mobile workstations in police cars.

Stations host necessary administrative and other policing functions such as arrest processing, and include meeting space for investigative teams, managers and support staff. Most of the time, these large police stations are quite empty since the majority of officers are out in the community on patrol, responding to calls, making arrests, dealing with traffic safety or conducting investigations. This is a key difference from fire and ambulance services, where staff can remain at their stations until a call comes in.

How It Will Work

In the future, people will relate to and connect directly with neighbourhood officers who will be assigned to neighbourhoods for a minimum of three years.

Because connected officers will have new mobile devices that they can use from anywhere to file reports, make calls, send emails, and access databases, there won’t be the same need for workstations at police stations. This means the Service will not need as many police stations.

New stations will be purpose-built to align with the neighbourhood policing focus. They will be configured more efficiently and be less costly to build and operate. They will remain the place where equipment is stored and where officers start and finish their working day. Stations will still host necessary administrative and other policing functions such as arrest processing, and include meeting space for investigative teams, managers and support staff. These areas will be secure and incorporate officer safety measures, while also allowing for public spaces such as meeting rooms that residents can use, as well as “touchdown” workspaces for City staff to serve local neighbourhoods and work in partnership with police officers.

As the Service draws new divisional boundaries, it will relocate some police stations to new locations that make better sense relative to Toronto’s neighbourhoods. It will renovate some existing stations to better reflect the requirements of modernization. Police stations and properties no longer required by the Service will be returned to the City and as noted earlier, the Service has recently returned two buildings. There will also be opportunities to streamline and reduce the number of managers and supervisors, as well as to consolidate and cluster teams of investigators and administrative personnel to make better use of resources.


  • Lower facility costs.
  • Returning some surplus, under-utilized and outdated facilities and properties to the City.
  • No impact on front-line services and response times, with fewer management and administrative staff needed.

Fewer Paid Duty Assignments

How It Works Now

The Service accepts requests from private entities to have off-duty police officers provide security and traffic management regardless of whether there is an actual need for the training and authority of a police officer. Typical sources of requests are construction companies, major sporting events, and shopping malls. In effect, the private companies are the ones deciding that they need a police officer.

The requesting organization pays for the officer’s time as well as a fee that covers the Service’s costs related to billing, collection, scheduling, and wear and tear on equipment.

Paid duties are performed exclusively on an off-duty basis and as such are optional for police officers. Paidduty rates are set by the Toronto Police Association. Opportunities are posted internally and officers who are interested can apply. Currently, the Service is only able to fill about 80 per cent of paid-duty requests because of a lack of officer interest or availability.

Large sporting events like Maple Leafs or Blue Jays games have a combination of private security and paidduty police officers paid for by the organizers.

Paid duties represents a reputational risk for the Service. The most common public complaint is that residents see a police officer “standing around” at a construction site instead of responding to calls. The fact that the officer is being paid privately by the construction company to ensure on-site safety is not readily apparent. If that construction site is causing traffic problems, the public does not understand why the officer is not directing traffic.

How It Will Work

In the future, the Service will still take requests from private entities to have police officers provide security but will apply a new public safety risk filter. Only assignments where the presence of a police officer is necessary for public safety or legislated reasons will be accepted and staffed. As before, the costs will be borne by the private company or organization requesting or requiring the service.

We expect that the new public safety risk filter will result in a reduction of at least 30 per cent in the number of eligible requests – although many of these may be requests that the Service has been unable to fill because of the lack of officer interest or availability.

Over time, there will be more situations where security is provided privately. However, where a police presence is required for public safety in a private setting (such as at a major sporting event or in a mall), that private entity will continue to be invoiced for that presence.

For some large sporting events, such as Maple Leafs or Blue Jays games, the TPS will always need to be in attendance and prepared for a public safety incident. Using paid-duty police officers for such purposes ensures that the cost is directly borne by those requesting the service. If on-duty officers were used instead, it would incur a public expense and draw on-duty officers away from other priorities and their presence within neighbourhoods.

The Service will address the reputational risk by improving its engagement and communication with the public. It will also be implementing a training program and accountability mechanism that focuses on the application of the public safety risk filter as well as the proper performance of paid-duty assignments.

The Task Force, the Board and City Council have joined in a request to the Province to amend the Highway Traffic Act to permit alternatives to police officers to direct traffic and close roads. Such a change would enable a new designation that could include special constables, peace officers or municipal traffic wardens to take on traffic functions and so reduce police officer paid-duty assignments further.


  • A reduction of at least 30 per cent in the number of eligible paid-duty requests.
  • An increase in the use of private security by private companies and organizations.
  • The cost of providing policing services for private purposes continues to be borne by the private company or organization requesting or requiring the service.
  • Greater public confidence in paid duties as a good safety and affordability/sustainability measure.


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