If there is one thing that I disagree with Mayor Rob Ford about, it would be the usefulness and efficiency of the Toronto Police. Rob Ford has always been a very strong advocate of the Toronto Police, and being the Mayor of Toronto, I can understand why that is so important. But in reality, the Toronto Police have many, many issues that need to be dealt with, and it is Toronto families and Toronto taxpayers who end up suffering while these issues remain.
The Toronto Star released a story today from former Toronto Mayor John Sewell in regards to the "gravy" in the Toronto Police budget, and he mentions many of the inefficiencies that exist that can be tackled for savings.
Here's the story from the Toronto Star:
Lots of gravy in bloated police budget
The police service is proposing a business-as-usual budget. City budget guidelines require budgets be drawn up on the assumption of a 5 per cent decrease in spending, the same requirement as for last year.The one common theme in all of these inefficiencies is that Toronto Police are basically just relaxing for the majority of the year, raking in huge salaries and racking up ridiculous overtime, all the while the most important statistic that a Police Department could ever have, its Murder Clearance Rate, is plummeting to historic lows with more than 56% of the murders in Toronto last year going unsolved (see Toronto Police's 2010 Murder Clearance/Solve Rate Hits Historic Low...).
As usual, police services have disregarded this instruction, and are submitting a budget for a net spending increase of 3 per cent or $26.7 million to total net expenditure of $915 million. This does not include the wage increase still to be negotiated for 2011, and that will add at least another $25 million, so the increase will be closer to 5 per cent.
But lucky for you, there’s a lot of gravy in that budget, so the financial cuts can be made without cutting services. Here are a few examples of where the gravy is in the police service:
Chief Bill Blair noted in this budget request that in 2010 the police responded to 578,000 calls for service to the end of November — about 630,000 for the full year. There are 5,600 officers, which means that on average each officer responded to about 110 calls in 2010. Since each officer works about 220 shifts per year, this means that each officer responded to one call for service every two shifts.
I think most residents of the city will be astounded to learn that Toronto’s finest respond to so few calls — only one every second shift. This is not a productive use of the time of city employees paid about $75,000 a year.
And it is not as if officers are making arrests on every shift. The average number of arrests per officer in Toronto, as it is in other Canadian cities, is seven to eight per year, that is, one arrest every six weeks, only one crime of which is a crime of serious violence.
There’s a related point. A recent Environmental Assessment Report from the police service notes that police now spend eight hours on every Priority 1 call, and that’s double the amount of time spent on such calls 10 years ago. The time spent on personal injury vehicle accidents has increased 33 per cent in four years. I suspect police spend more time on these incidents simply because they do not have a lot else to do.
Here’s a second example of gravy. Police work three shifts a day: a 10-hour day shift; a 10-hour evening shift; and an eight-hour night shift. That means that in every 24 hours, police are paid to work 28 hours. The shift overlaps do not occur during the evening hours when calls for service are highest. Getting police to work just 24 hours every day — cutting out the four hours of gravy — would require about 15 per cent less resources, in itself a saving of about $100 million a year.
A third example is the two-man police car. After 5 p.m., police work two officers to a car. Evidence shows one-man cars are safer than two-man cars (since a single officer doesn’t take the chances that two do), and putting two officers in a car to mostly drive around aimlessly during the evening hours, is an extraordinary waste of money. You can see why police officers are usually associated with Tim Hortons and doughnuts — they don’t have a lot to do.
How much of the budget is gravy? In the United Kingdom the government has decided a cut in the police budget of 19 per cent is in order. Margaret Thatcher cut police services in the U.K. by an even larger amount, and so did New York City in the 1980s. Disaster did not occur — instead, police services had to look closely at what they really needed to spend money on.
In Toronto, the moderate course of action would be follow the city budget guideline, and agree on a police budget of $844 million for 2011. That would be a good start.
One would think that with all of these Officers farting around doing nothing all day and getting paid a fortune for it, they could all at least be put towards important tasks like Murder Investigations... Meanwhile, we are hearing from the Toronto Police themselves that their Homicide Departments are severely understaffed and underfunded???
It really is time for a reality check for our beloved Toronto Police force.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/deks/1721851355/sizes/z/in/photostream/ by christopher.woo on flickr