There are growing tensions between the mayor, police chief and police union over a plan to put an additional 200 officers on patrol in the city overnight, for the next eight weeks.
The plan comes in response to the recent spate of gun violence in the city.
The Toronto Police Association is grieving the mandatory overtime required to get the job done. Officers will be forced to work 12-hour shifts, and the union says there won’t be an appropriate rest time between shifts, breaking their collective agreement.
“This whole notion that we’re going to have an additional 200 officers available is just not true,” said Mike McCormack, Toronto Police Association president.
“We’re relying on the officers that are already overworked.”
“This is a temporary measure, for eight weeks,” said Toronto mayor John Tory in response to the grievance, noting Police Chief Mark Saunders has reassured him that the well-being of police officers comes first.
But the union says more hires are needed to make a plan like this work effectively. Right now, the city is in the process of hiring more permanent officers, but the mayor said it just can’t happen overnight.
“We can’t hire them that fast,” said Tory.
“We have some obstacles standing in the way of hiring police officers right now that have to do with some of the fitness tests, the capacity of the police college and so on, so it’s not possible to hire police officers on a dime. This is the best way that we can put those resources in the community.”
On Wednesday, the mayor also released a 16-point plan that focuses on youth programs, with the goal of keeping at-risk youth away from violence and violent behaviour. Tory says the initiative will help thousands of young people access jobs, mentoring and after-school programs. The majority of the $12 million dollar cost will come from the federal government.
Experts say there is no short-term fix but investing in marginalized communities and at-risk youth is the best way to see significant changes.
“There’s no real quick fix,” said Jooyoung Lee, U of T Associate Professor. “The solution is systemic, and if we want to rid the city streets of gun violence then we have to invest in infrastructure that’s gonna support people who are marginalized and vulnerable. That’s the real solution.”
In the meantime, the Toronto Police Association says it will not be taking any immediate job action, and the eight-week plan is set to move forward on Friday.