Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 61, May 20, 2011
By John Sewell –
In this issue:
1. The Toronto police collective agreement: missing the obvious
2. TPAC policing forum
3. The secret public meetings
4. The high cost of being accused of police misconduct
5. G20 review hearings
6. Subscribe to the bulletin
1.The Toronto police collective agreement: missing the obvious
Everyone has latched onto the fact that the proposed four-year agreement between the Toronto Police Services Board and the Toronto Police Association will provide wage increases of about 11 per cent, making Toronto police the highest paid in Canada with a starting salary of more than $72,000 a year, rising to over $90,000 after five years.
We agree there is little justification for this raise, but there are two other significant issues that should be addressed to save the public a great deal of money without reducing service, issues that apparently have not been renegotiated in the new agreement: two officer police cars and the current shift schedule.
It seems the new agreement confirms existing arrangements on these issues for the next four years. That would be an extraordinary waste of public money, and a failure by the board to protect the public interest if does not change the tentative agreement.
The Police Association will be voting on May 25; assuming the Association ratifies the agreement, the Toronto Police Services Board will deal with it on June 9. So there is ample time to get a better agreement, one that both rewards officers for work done if that is something which needs to be done, and ensures efficient use of public funds by addressing these two big issues.
Take the issue of the current shift schedule. In what must be the strangest example of working arrangements in the public service, Toronto police are scheduled to work 28 hours during every 24-hour period. This is a result of the shift schedule currently in the collective agreement. It sets out that police officers work three shifts a day: a 10-hour day shift, a 10-hour evening shift and an 8-hour night shift. This arrangement provides that police work seven day shifts, then have six days off; six evening shifts then five days off; seven night shifts then three days off.
Obviously, the shifts involve a considerable amount of overlap. Other police forces in Canada do not work shifts which overlap – many have two 12-hour shifts in a 24-hour period – and no good argument has been made about why such overlaps are necessary in Toronto. Furthermore, the overlaps do not occur at times when calls for police assistance are at their highest.
Getting Toronto police to work just 24 hours every day – cutting out the four hours of unnecessary overlap – would require about 15 per cent less staff resources. That would save about $100 million a year.
If the settlement does not modify the collective agreement to permit the shift schedule to be reworked, then this significant change in productivity will not be possible during the next four years. That would represent a serious missed opportunity to stop spending money foolishly.
The other issue that needs addressing is the two-officer police car. The collective agreement in Toronto requires that, after dark, police must work two officers to a car. This decision resulted from an arbitration award more than 30 years ago, but it doesn’t represent a wise expenditure of money. There is no evidence that one-officer cars are more dangerous than two officer cars – in fact the reverse might be true since single officers don’t take the chances that two do. The RCMP and many city forces in Canada do not use two officer cars after dark.
Maybe two-officer cars are useful in some neighbourhoods. If Toronto police got rid of only half of the two-officer cars, savings would be in the order $90 million a year. But to experiment with changes to the two officers per car practice, the collective agreement would have to be modified. Without that change, we are stuck with two-officer cars for a further four years.
Often negotiations between the police board and the Toronto Police Association drag on for months and months, but this time they arrived at a tentative settlement within a 10-week period. It seems to have been done because the board did not put the big issues on the table – the shift schedule and two officers in a car.
These are the issues that must be addressed in a new collective agreement. Give the officers the pay raise they want – but require that the language in the agreement which guarantees the current shift schedule and two officers in a car be amended so they can be rethought without delay.
Getting the Toronto Police Services Board to take this opportunity to create efficiencies and save substantial public funds might require public input, such as writing to the board and speaking at the Board’s meeting on June 9. Call the Board secretary at 416 808 8094 to get on the agenda.
2. TPAC’s policing forum
`Rethinking Toronto police: a public forum’ sponsored by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition. It will be held starting at 7 pm, Monday June 20, in the auditorium at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, on Church Street just north of Wellesley Street. This is a wheelchair accessible space.
This public forum provides an opportunity to discuss new and alternative ideas about police issues in Toronto.
The evening will include brief ten-minute speeches, each focused on one of four key issues:
a) Where should we cut money in policing? Councillor Adam Vaughan will speak.
b) Alternatives to how police deal with young people. Speaker TBA.
c) How do we end sexist, racist and other inequitable police practises? Carol Tator, York University, to speak.
d) Challenging police culture. Mariana Valverde, Centre for Criminology, University of Toronto, to speak.
Following these remarks, we will break into four groups in which members of the audience will participate in discussion of one of these issues. Before the evening concludes, we’ll do a brief summary of conclusions about ways to move forward.
Everyone is welcome to attend and participate.
3. The secret public meetings.
You may not have heard of the public meetings called by the Toronto police service to discuss Toronto police service priorities for 2012 – 14. Apparently the police took special care to ensure that very few people found out about these meetings. It is not clear how many meetings were called – the number five has been suggested – but Corporate Communications of the police service did not return phone calls asking for information.
Attendance at the meetings seemed to vary between three and six members of the public.
The notices for two meetings, one on April 13 at the Etobicoke Civic Centre attended by Chief Bill Blair, the other on April 27 at North York Civic Centre attended by deputy chief Peter Sloly, were recently found on the Toronto police web site, although the April 13 notice has since been dropped. Both notices state: “The public forum is designed to ask one question of the public: What do you think is the most important issue that the service should address as a priority?”
Both notices indicate that they were broadcast on the web as news releases at 5 am on the day of the meeting. That’s probably one good reason why most of us never became aware of the meetings. It looks like the police used a deliberate strategy to keep the meetings secret so few would show up to express their concerns.
The police easily could have given wide notice of this meetings, such as through newspaper advertisements or simply putting them on the agenda of the Toronto Police Services Board. But you can understand their reluctance: doing that might have produced crowd of people with opinions about policing, and that’s not something the police hierarchy wants. When the chief comes forward with his report on priorities for 2012 – 14, we will know he is acting without useful public input.
4. The high cost of being accused of police misconduct
Two Toronto Police constables should serve jail time for assault causing bodily harm even though they have otherwise spotless records, a judge heard Monday.
Constables Edward Ing and John Cruz of the Toronto Police Service were found guilty of assault causing bodily harm in January. A presentence hearing was held recently, and officers from 51 Division packed the courtroom for their colleagues, according to an article in the Toronto Star on May 9.
Ing and Cruz have remained out of custody and on duty. They have been transferred to administrative duties pending their court case. They had been convicted of savagely beating a Cabbagetown man who suffered fractured ribs, a dislocated shoulder and other injuries. They arrested him for being drunk in public, but medical tests showed there was no alcohol in his system.
The Star reported that defense lawyer David Butt, arguing for a minimum sentence, said the transfer from outside duties have cost the officers an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 yearly in overtime and paid duty work.
It is an astounding statement. If this is the standard amount that officers lose when transferred from the beat to desk duties, the standards of payment to police officers need a thorough review. It is certainly more evidence that a serious reconsideration of both overtime and paid duty is long overdue. City Council must take immediate action to change the requirement of paid duty over which it has influence.
Sentencing of the two officers is scheduled for June 28.
5. G20 review hearings
The review established by the Toronto Police Services Board, headed by former judge John Morden, will hold hearings in Toronto on June 1, 6 and 13, 2011. Members of the public are asked to share their views and opinions on the role that civilian oversight should play concerning the policing of major events. Apparently the hearings are not about personal experiences during the G20. All hearings run from 5.30 pm to 9 pm, as follows:
Wednesday, June 1, Metro Hall.
Monday, June 6, 2011, Etobicoke Civic Centre.
Monday, June 13, Scarborough Civic Centre.