Toronto Police Board approves $ 1.1 billion budget, up $ 25 million

The Toronto Police Board unanimously approved a $ 1.1 billion operating budget for the city’s police force in 2022, an increase of nearly $ 25 million despite protests from some citizens who have asked for a reduction in spending – or at least more time to look at the numbers.

After a lengthy budget meeting on Tuesday, the Civil Council voted in favor of what Toronto Police Chief James Ramer called a “financially responsible budget,” the bulk of which covers the salary increases required under the collective agreement. Ramer said the additional spending will help reallocate resources to initiatives aimed at road safety, reducing gun violence, investigating hate crimes and increasing the number of community workers.

The budget also includes spending for about 12 to 15 employees, according to Ramer, which was needed to follow up on a central recommendation for a review of the forcible treatment of serial killer Bruce McArthur that identified Toronto Police no was not in compliance with provincial legislation in key cases and investigations. holding zones.

Over the past two years, the seven-member board has faced unprecedented pressure to cut spending amid continued calls to fund police and redeploy resources to other agencies, including services. social. Moments before voting for the increased budget, Mayor John Tory, who sits on the board, said he would not accept a “binary” view that change in policing cannot be done. take place only through dramatic budget cuts.

Tory said the 2022 budget strikes the “appropriate balance” between “detaching” the police – removing some of the work that police do – and making investments that will keep people safe.

“I will not compromise the security of this city, the steady implementation of reforms, the way we police and the investments needed to make it happen … especially to appease the people who … have very little.” facts and figures to back it up, ”Tory said of those advocating a 50% cut in police spending.

During formal deputations, several members of the public urged the board not to approve the spending increase, with some raising concerns about the time given to the public to consider the budget request.

“We are on the verge of hitting the two-year mark in this pandemic, and policing is by no means the top priority for our city,” said Abaigeal Clark, who said the city was facing dire straits. larger issues, citing issues in the shelter system. and a recent night when no ambulance was available.

Many people and community organizations, including the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and the Law Union of Ontario, called on the board for what they described as insufficient time to review major government spending. The board informed the public of its special budget meeting on January 4, asking anyone wishing to provide comments to do so before 9 a.m. on January 10 – an “impossible deadline,” Citizen Doris said. Fulton.

Some speakers pleaded with the board to delay the vote.

“It’s really baffling to me, because what it looks like, the gist of it, is that the board doesn’t want to have a public opinion on the budget to release something so complicated with it. so much data and not giving us enough time, ”says Fulton.

“At the request of City Council, the Toronto Police Services Board has committed to greater transparency in its budgeting and this rushed process does not meet that standard,” wrote Rob Howarth, Executive Director of the Toronto Neighborhood Centers. , in a written deputation.

Ryan Teschner, executive director of the Toronto Police Commission, said in an email that the commission’s bylaws allow a special meeting, such as Tuesday’s budget meeting, to be called with 24 hours’ notice, but in this case “a full week’s notice has been given, similar to what is provided for regular council meetings.

“The board and department have always been committed to transparency, accountability and meaningful consultation with communities in Toronto. Our budget process is no exception, ”Teschner said.

During the meeting, Toronto Police Administration Chief Tony Veneziano said the 2023 budget process will begin earlier, leaving more time for the public.

The police budget has yet to be approved by Toronto City Council, a process set to begin next month.

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and law enforcement for The Star. Contact her by email at wgillis@thestar.ca or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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