3 Talking about Modernization

Over the late summer and fall, we conducted public consultations on the Interim Report, including ten public consultation meetings with more than 500 people in attendance. We also received initial input from within the Service and held consultation days with shared services organizations, the commercial sector and the academic community. In total, we recorded hundreds of comments and questions. The Task Force appreciates the time that the many individuals and organizations took to participate as well as the thoughtfulness and sincerity of their input.

The Public

People communicated candidly and often with emotion about their lived experiences. Participants at the consultation sessions spoke about incidents involving distrust and frustration as well as interactions that demonstrated the dedication, compassion, and commitment of officers and civilians.

What we didn’t hear was indifference and that’s a very good sign for modernization. The people of Toronto are clearly interested in the policing of their city. They want to be engaged with a policing organization that is trusted and demonstrates excellence in all ways.

The public wants a trusted relationship with its police service:

This was the most common and important message we received. That relationship needs to include:

  • A focus on crime prevention, community safety, community engagement, and reducing victimization at the neighbourhood level.
  • A more familiar, consistent and trust-based relationship between residents and officers who are assigned to neighbourhoods for longer periods.
  • Officers less separated from the public – more time on foot and on bicycles interacting with people and less time isolated in cars.
  • Building the skills of existing officers to strengthen engagement with individuals and groups, including answering questions and providing useful information.
  • Officers with enhanced emotional intelligence, empathy and skills related to problem solving, crisis management, interpersonal communications, and collaboration.
  • Future hiring focused on a broader set of skills, experiences, competencies, and empathy.
  • Less visibility of uniforms when engaging with the public in some settings, since uniforms can be experienced as a relationship barrier.
Culture is recognized as a key part of building a closer, trusted relationship with the public:

Participants spoke about the need for culture change and more consistent actions and behaviours from officers, particularly when dealing with youth, including racialized youth, and marginalized communities. The words used to describe the desired culture included:

  • More proactive and less reactive at the local level.
  • Fair and impartial
  • More genuine communication with individuals – less of an attitude of distrust, authority and power.
  • Less aggressive, less judgemental and more inclusive.
  • More informed and less biased.
  • More transparent and open.

Participants noted that culture change takes time, involves natural resistance, and should include self-reflection by the Service. The Task Force also heard that a more open sharing of police data and information will be an important part of building trust.

Improved police accountability and a Service where there is zero tolerance for bias, racism and discrimination:

The public’s expectations with respect to police accountability, bias, systemic and individual racism, and discrimination were very clear. For example:

  • The need for a new human resources strategy – including recruitment, talent management, and promotion – that results in a police service that reflects the diversity of the City at every level of the organization.
  • More comprehensive training and increased emphasis during employment screening for evidence of bias, racism, and discriminatory beliefs.
  • Use of body-worn cameras and managing officer performance to deal with inappropriate behaviours and actions.
  • More officers and civilian members who are skilled at reaching out to different communities.
  • The need for additional strategies to address police distrust among youth and especially black youth.
A smarter approach to divisional boundaries and facilities:

The public wants a police service that is neighbourhood-focused and can deploy resources within and across neighbourhoods as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, the public also wants to be assured that our action plan will not diminish the Service’s presence and ability to respond to neighbourhood needs. Comments included:

  • Police stations may act as visible deterrents so having fewer police stations may be less effective.
  • Fewer divisions and police stations could result in slower response times, particularly in neighbourhoods with higher crime rates and more social issues.
  • Existing divisions often do great work to engage with communities – there is a concern that the changes could weaken those relationships.
  • Fewer stations could result in fewer opportunities for communities to engage with police – fewer meetings, committees, and social events.
  • Larger divisions may not be able to provide the same level of local service.
Alternative service-delivery, program transfers and the three-year hiring moratorium:

Alternative service-delivery, transferring some programs and their budgets to the City of Toronto and the three-year moratorium on hiring and promotion were not the subject of extensive public input during the consultations. Comments received included:

  • We were cautioned that outsourcing does not always result in lower costs or improved efficiency
  • With respect to the Parking Enforcement, Crossing Guard and Lifeguard programs, comments were supportive of alternatives that don’t tie up police officers. Residents were aware that this was not a budget savings but rather a transfer of accountability and budget from the Service to the City or to an alternative service provider.
On the hiring and promotion moratorium, comments included:
  • A perception that Toronto needed more police officers and that hiring should be expanded.
  • Concern about the size of the Service’s budget and the need to control costs.
  • Agreement that the Service needs renewal but perhaps it should be accomplished through other strategies.
  • Concerns that the hiring moratorium should not be allowed to result in an insufficient number of police officers.

Building on Successes to Date with Youth and Diversion Programs:

Members of the public talked about the need to maintain and expand existing programs for youth. Comments included:

  • Many compliments for programs that the TPS has in place, including strong support for the Youth in Policing Initiative (YIPI).
  • Many references to youth diversion programs as important priorities.
  • Suggestions to expand the Community Resource “hub” suite of programs throughout the city.
  • The need for more engagement with youth including but not limited to black youth – with Service members out of uniform and without firearms.
  • The need to strengthen Service member relationships with schools and teachers.
  • The potential to develop a one-on-one mentoring program between officers and youth.
A Greater Focus on Mental Health Issues:

Many individuals identified the need for a more effective approach to dealing with mental health issues by society as a whole – not only the Service but also municipal and provincial governments, as well as social and health agencies. There was a recognition that although police officers should not be the first or most important response to mental health issues, they need to have knowledge and relationships to be able to connect individuals to the right resource. Residents emphasized the importance of:

  • Expanded and enhanced inter-agency cooperation and a broader multi-government strategy of which police would be one part.
  • Service members being as well-trained as possible to deal with growing mental health challenges in the community, especially with youth.
  • De-escalation training as critical to ensuring that force is only used when absolutely necessary.
  • The existing specialized mobile crisis response capacity that can respond to mental health issues and crises.
  • Service member ties with mental health agencies that help the homeless.

Service Members

There has been initial feedback from members of the Service, including through:

  • The Chief’s information sessions with civilian units potentially affected by modernization.
  • Smaller group meetings with key leaders of the Service to gather input and answer questions, facilitated by individual Task Force members.
  • Members of local divisions attending and participating in the public consultation meetings.
  • The Way Forward website through which we received and answered questions from Service members

With the release of our final report, the Service’s leadership will be engaging intensively with its members in the weeks and months ahead. The initial feedback highlighted:

  • A desire for change, including a recognition of modernization as an opportunity to enhance the Service’s effectiveness and an impatience to move forward.
  • The need for leadership, action, and for this report not to “sit on the shelf ” like other reports. A desire for tangible change and concrete timelines.
  • The potential for internal resistance and the importance of meaningful internal engagement of Service members that shows respect for the knowledge and expertise of the front line and acknowledges the disruptive impact that change will have on them.
  • The importance of information about how the changes will work “on the ground” and how they will affect front-line Service members.
  • Whether the vision and strategy would result in “doing less with less” rather than a better way to provide policing services.
  • Concern that the Service won’t have the ability to make the investments required to support modernization, or that the public won’t support needed measures such as realigning divisional boundaries and changing from primary to Priority Response.

Shared Services Organizations

The Task Force heard from the City of Toronto, Ontario Shared Services, the Police Cooperative Purchasing Group, and Shared Services West. The information session focused on the redesign of various services within organizations where the objective is to reduce duplication within and across business units, including with other police services. The presentations and discussions covered a wide range of points including:

  • Shared services can be an effective way for organizations to pool their resources by sharing a function such as payroll or information technology. The benefits include minimizing duplication, reducing costs, standardizing business processes, achieving economies of scale, and sharing talent and expertise.
  • To date, shared services opportunities in the public sector have tended to focus on joint purchasing and information technology. Other examples discussed include payroll and other human resources systems, training, fleet management, audit and quality control functions, legal services, and real estate.
  • Individual public service organizations are often challenged to find the money for necessary investments in expertise and technology. A shared services approach allows for these costs to be shared by more than one organization.

Academic Community

During the consultations we heard from the academic community. Participants reinforced the appropriateness of the recommendations contained in the interim report, but also identified challenges that other police services are facing:

  • While much of our action plan reflects international best practice, implementing this magnitude of change is a challenge. It will be important for the Service to take ownership of the direction and build coalitions of support with different communities.
  • Investing in crime prevention has been a challenge for all police services. The key isn’t technical solutions; it’s primarily a management challenge that requires engagement with officers, governance bodies, and the public, as well as dealing with legal barriers and political issues.
  • Police-community partnerships are typically led by police and shaped mainly by their authority. In the future, communities will need to lead more often, although this can be a challenge because of limited community resources. It will be important to ensure that partnerships lead to positive outcomes and are not partnerships for their own sake.
  • More effective use of data, GPS and other geo-spatial enabled technologies should be a major priority. They enable better solutions that can also be implemented quickly. Also, a principled approach to more transparent data and information sharing is a key component of building public trust.
  • Policing is shifting on a continuum towards greater professionalism. There is a role for university and community college partners through specialized programs.
  • Academic partners can provide police services with advice on community collaboration, engagement, and consultation. They can also assist with research on relevant best practices, including evidence-based assessments of crime prevention programs in other jurisdictions.
  • Declining public trust in institutions is a challenge for all public service organizations. Creating and always demonstrating value needs to be one of the goals of modernization. This value must be apparent to the public and supported by evidence-based research, which will in turn lead to enhanced trust.

Commercial Sector

The Task Force heard from the commercial sector, including organizations that have expertise in large-scale transformations, change initiatives, and shared services. Their insights were generally positive and affirmed our direction. Participants suggested there are extensive lessons to be learned from organizations which have dealt with similar challenges:

  • For transformation to result in meaningful change, internal alignment and unity are important, just as it’s important to be bold and take calculated risks.
  • Taking action is critical to overcoming inertia, particularly if some recommendations have been made before.
  • Through innovative approaches and mobilizing community resources, other police services have successfully undertaken similar transformations aimed at delivering better service and intelligenceled policing for less money.
  • The TPS is not the only public sector organization dealing with aging infrastructure including older technology and paper-based processes.
  • Technology and data can put officers and their work in Toronto’s neighbourhoods at the center of policing in ways that are much more efficient.
  • Mobile digital technology is fundamentally changing how all services in every sector are delivered, giving the public and service providers access to information anywhere, anytime and on any device. However, funding for new technology is a challenge.
  • Police services around the world are recognizing the need to process and utilize massive amounts of crime and intelligence data in a way that will enable a predictive approach.


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