Toronto Police seeking 2.3% budget bump

Years of zero-increase police budgets behind us, says TPS Chief James Ramer

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The time has come for the City of Toronto to open its purse strings for police.

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That was the case made by Toronto Police Chief James Ramer on Tuesday during the service’s annual budget presentation at a special meeting of the city’s police board.

“For three of the past five years, we have managed to operate with zero budget increases, despite being one of the fastest-growing cities in North America,” Ramer said.

“We are no longer able to hold to zero in the current environment.”

Toronto Police are asking for a 2.3% funding bump this year compared to 2021 — increasing their budget ask from $1,075,800 in 2021 to $1,100,600 for 2022.

“The service is tabling a fiscally responsible budget that is responsive to the needs of our city,” Ramer said, adding the 2.3% increase is lower than current inflation rates.

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The budget ask adds no new personnel, save for the hiring of an additional 12 to 15 people dedicated to major case management — a key recommendation in Justice Gloria Epstein’s independent review of how TPS handled missing persons cases related to the Bruce McArthur murders.

“Twelve to 15 personnel will allow us to begin the process toward achieving full compliance (with the recommendations,)” Ramer said, adding that one of the service’s goals for 2022 is to become a leader in missing persons cases.

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Other priorities include bolstering the number of neighbourhood community officers, supporting the city’s ‘Vision Zero’ strategy reducing the number of traffic fatalities, expanding hate crime investigations, and more mental health training for officers to better respond to calls involving persons-in-crisis.

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The so-called ‘Gerstein Initiative’ will see such non-violent mental health calls dispatched to dedicated ‘alternate response’ teams meant to lessen police call volumes and ensure people in crisis get the help they need — a measure that Ramer said is showing “modest results.”

Police attended more than 16,000 persons-in-crisis calls in 2021, nearly 5,000 overdoses and 7,500 threatened suicides.

“The nature of these calls are exceptionally time-consuming for our members, including wait times at hospitals,” Ramer said.

Toronto Police are also furthering the rollout of a next-generation 911 system , that will allow both call takers and those calling greater flexibility and tools to ensure help gets to where it’s needed quickly — including the long-awaited ability to text 911 for assistance.

As Toronto grows, so does its violent crime — while robberies and break-and-enters were down last year, homicides went up by 20% in 2021 compared to 2020, as did auto thefts (9%) and assaults (5%.)

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

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