Toronto police chief Mark Saunders has ordered his officers to stop wearing the union ball caps they’d been sporting to protest low morale.
“As of 0600 on Tuesday September 19th, 2017, I am ordering all members of the Toronto Police Service to be in their approved uniforms only,” Saunders said in a directive.
The Toronto Police Association responded with a memo of their own, urging union members to continue their job action.
“The TPA Board is asking all uniform members, from the rank of constable to staff sergeant, to continue to wear their hats in a show of solidarity and support,” read part of the memo.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash would not speculate Tuesday on what would happen if officers continued to wear the union hats, emblazoned with the letters “TPA”.
Former Toronto Police sergeant Tim Burrows calls the defiance a clear challenge of Saunders’ leadership.
“How he reacts to this, the association going forward with its members not to don the uniform of the day… it’ll be a test of not just his authority, but his leadership and where he stands,” Burrows told CityNews.
Earlier this month, TPS President Mike McCormack said the Police Board reneged on a promise to hire 80 new officers, adding that it put front-line cops, and the public, at risk due to insufficient staffing levels.
Both Saunders and Mayor John Tory say work is already well underway to hire those officers. Councillor Shelley Carroll, who sits on the Police Board, is blasting union leadership for taking a public stance.
“80 new officers are coming on stream,” said Carroll. “Mr. McCormack knows exactly how long that takes and he knew that when he sat down and agreed to that with the chief and the chair. It feels a lot to me like sucking and blowing at the same time.”
York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoiliti believes more emphasis needs to be placed on officer morale.
“Officers feel like they can’t even make a decision without getting themselves into trouble,” said Mammoiliti. “I think the board needs to reconsider everything they do and talk to the association about how they could feel better about doing their job.”