80 po­lice of­fi­cers cost $12 mil­lion?

Ob­vi­ous sav­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties con­tinue to be ig­nored

North Toronto Post - - News - JOHN SEWELL Post City Mag­a­zines’ colum­nist John Sewell is a for­mer mayor of Toronto and the au­thor of a num­ber of ur­ban plan­ning books, in­clud­ing The Shape of the Suburbs.

“The path to mod­ern­iza­tion is not a straight line” is the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion cited by the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board in hir­ing 80 new po­lice of­fi­cers when it de­clared in Fe­bru­ary that to “trans­form” the ser­vice no new of­fi­cers would be hired for the next three years.

That the new ar­range­ment was ar­rived at with the Toronto Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion, which one could con­clude has as much power and in­flu­ence in the way polic­ing is de­liv­ered in Toronto as does the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board. But the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice (TPS) al­ready has more than enough of­fi­cers. They are just not on duty when needed.

The prob­lem is feath­erbed­ding, the term of­ten used to de­scribe when an or­ga­ni­za­tion has too many staff not do­ing enough work. One prob­lem is the re­quire­ment in the col­lec­tive agree­ment that re­quires Toronto to place two of­fi­cers in ev­ery pa­trol car af­ter dark. It is an ex­tra­or­di­nary waste of re­sources, par­tic­u­larly since there is so lit­tle for po­lice of­fi­cers to do in the early morn­ing hours. Most other large city po­lice forces in Canada have no such re­quire­ment for two of­fi­cers in a car, but here in Toronto, it is writ­ten into the col­lec­tive agree­ment with the po­lice as­so­ci­a­tion.

Ev­i­dence shows one of­fi­cer in a car is likely safer than two: one of­fi­cer will call for backup, when some­thing is un­to­ward, whereas two of­ten do not.

In the last mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, may­oralty can­di­date and for­mer bud­get chief David Sok­nacki es­ti­mated $50 mil­lion could be saved an­nu­ally by scrap­ping this rule. Al­ter­na­tively, those of­fi­cers could be as­signed to times when they are needed — in which case the board would not need to hire more of­fi­cers.

The other prob­lem is the shift sched­ule se­cured in the col­lec­tive agree­ment. It re­quires three shifts in ev­ery 24-hour pe­riod: 10 hours, 10 hours and eight hours, which means there are 28 hours of po­lice work de­liv­ered in ev­ery 24-hour pe­riod. Sadly, the over­lap does not hap­pen when po­lice ser­vices are in de­mand.

The shift sched­ule re­quires that there are as many of­fi­cers on duty at 3:30 a.m. as there are at 8:30 p.m. Many pub­lic ser­vices are de­liv­ered on a 24-hour ba­sis — hos­pi­tals for in­stance. But a hos­pi­tal man­ager would be ousted for try­ing to sug­gest the staff com­ple­ment in the mid­dle of the night should be the same as the mid­dle of the day. But the po­lice as­so­ci­a­tion has ne­go­ti­ated this agree­ment, and although the board has been chal­lenged to rene­go­ti­ate it for the last three rounds of con­tract talks, it has never agreed to do so.

More rea­son­able shift sched­ules are a fact of life in po­lice cir­cles, as one can learn with some sim­ple re­search. An al­ter­na­tive to the Toronto model is to have one shift of 10 hours from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., an­other shift of eight hours from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., a third of 10 hours from 3 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The night­time/morn­ing shift would not have as many of­fi­cers on duty as the af­ter­noon or evening shift. But the key is dou­bling the num­ber of of­fi­cers avail­able dur­ing peak de­mand times be­tween 5 and 11 p.m.

Obviously, there are var­i­ous ways to ar­range rea­son­able shift hours. But the board has not been will­ing to talk about this. The an­nounce­ment about the bend­ing path to mod­ern­iza­tion notes, as did the TPS trans­for­ma­tional task force re­port, in Fe­bru­ary, that the shift sched­ule is be­ing re­viewed. That was also noted af­ter the past two rounds of con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, but noth­ing has been done. One fa­mil­iar with the modus operandi of the TPS un­der­stands that re­view hardly ever means change.

The cost of a po­lice of­fi­cer to the pub­lic purse is about $150,000 a year. So this new ar­range­ment with the po­lice as­so­ci­a­tion for 80 new of­fi­cers has a cost of some $12 mil­lion a year. The prom­ise of keep­ing the po­lice bud­get in line has no more sub­stance than does the idea in the TPS trans­for­ma­tional re­port about not hir­ing new of­fi­cers.

The good news for some is that noth­ing much has changed at the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board. For oth­ers, it is a re­it­er­a­tion of the fact that an­other missed op­por­tu­nity has come and gone.

Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice seems to be back in a hir­ing phase de­spite the find­ings of its own re­view

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