The Real Story Behind The Billion Dollars

NOW magazine has had a long history of being anti-police which I am sure has helped their bottom line when it comes to advertising and in keeping their rag in circulation. In a recent February 25th cover story titled “POLICE STATE” they address the Toronto Police Service annual budget, which stands at one billion dollars. They published a list of cuts and potential savings, which could be implemented to bring this figure down to lower the police budget by 100 million dollars.

I believe any police budget should be scrutinized and in Toronto the police budgets have been historically justified and approved, especially when the world-class Toronto Police force has as their bench mark a target of the lowest crime rate possible.  Regardless of this, it seems that every few years when it is time to discuss the Police Budget the media and the usual suspects always fall back on the fact crime is down so why such a high and expensive budget.  The answer is that we have such a safe city because of the budget, which facilitates the best equipment to the men and women who patrol our streets.  On any given day TPS officers will experience and incredible 10,000 interactions with the citizens of Toronto ranging from good to bad.   TPS officers have to be at their best and we want them to be their best and this costs money…a lot of money.

When 90% of the budget is salary and benefits, it will be difficult to slash unless you cut the work force down and start layoffs. I have read that some would like to see 10 to 20 % slashed from the budget which would translate into about two hundred million dollars.  The only real way to arrive at this is the removal of front line officers.

This is a terrible idea, but let’s say for argument’s sake we were to go ahead with this.  Toronto has approximately 5,600 sworn officers that are endowed with powers of arrest.  Of those 5,600, 1500 are supervisors (Sgt-S/Sgt.) so the number shrinks to 4100.   Then we have constables in specialty support units (Drug Squad, Traffic Service, Hold Up, Homicide, Major Crime Units, and all the supports staff at HQ).  You then must go further to consider there are the walking wounded; officers who cannot perform their duties for medical reasons, maternity leave, or officers on annual leave/vacation.

This dramatically dwindles down the real number of officers which we all see driving that police scout car around to between 1,500 and 1,800.  This figure is then broken down to the platoon system, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By the end of this exercise in realistically evaluating who is policing the streets, there may only be 500 to 600 officers in uniform working at any given time in the city of Toronto.

These are hard numbers that reflect how important it is to ensure that proper staffing stays in place for those scout cars to be full when anyone, including NOW magazine employees need the police for all emergencies. Attacking the police budget can be very dangerous as the effects cross into life and death situations and the safety of our citizens, not to mention that police officer safety is compromised. Everyone loses in this scenario and there is only one winner, the bad guy.

Craig Bromell