Next up on Toronto’s budget chopping block: more than 1,000 police officers and staff

Next up on Toronto’s budget chopping block: more than 1,000 police officers and staff

Toronto Police HQ: gravy central? (Image: Ronnie Yip from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool) 

Here’s a clear case where Rob Ford’s rhetoric meets fiscal reality: the Toronto police are telling any reporters who ask that, if they have to stick to the mayor’s requested budget cuts, the city could have more than 1,000 fewer officers and police staff on hand by next year. Unsurprisingly, they’re warning that this could have dire consequences for public safety.

According to the Toronto Star:

Mayor Rob Ford said last Friday that if it were up to him, no Toronto police officer would be laid off to fill the funding gap. But the Ford administration is still demanding the service find more than 8 per cent in cuts—about $84 million—in a budget made up almost entirely of salary and benefit costs.

This math problem has created confusion within the police service and its board about the mayor’s intentions.

“On one hand, (Ford is) saying no layoffs. On the other, he’s making it impossible not to do layoffs,” said one police official.

Of course, police were the number one priority Ford listed during his interview on CP24 with Stephen LeDrew last Friday, followed by smooth roads and efficient garbage removal. So just how the mayor squares substantial funding cuts with his desire not to lay off any police (indeed, his election promise was to add police to the force) without inventing to a whole new type of math will be worth watching.

But the police force’s claim that these reductions will necessarily impact public safety shouldn’t pass without scrutiny, either. Pretty much all forms of crime are lower now than they’ve been in 30 years, and violent crime has been flat for a decade. (Frankly, the end of leaded gasoline was probably a bigger factor in crime reduction than police funding.) So while this will be confusing for Ford’s election-era logic, it’s possible that Toronto could have fewer police and still see a reduction in crime. Not that Ford voters thought that they were volunteering to be lab rats in this experiment—we’re pretty sure Ford never listed police HQ as gravy central.

Price of meeting police budget goal: 750 fewer officers [Toronto Star]
Toronto police cuts possible: report [CBC]