A Toronto city councillor says he’s disturbed that the TTC’s new fare inspectors will be armed with batons and handcuffs.
Coun. Gord Perks says arming the inspectors is “inappropriate” and sends the wrong message to commuters.
“Right now the TTC is putting staff onto transit vehicles that are armed with batons and carry handcuffs that don’t have any supervision or public accountability through the police service. That’s just wrong.”
Since August, some fare inspectors have been carrying what the TTC calls “self-defence” tools, as they inspect proof-of-payment on streetcar routes that allow all-door boarding.
The proof-of-payment system is in effect on the Spadina and Queen routes and will go into effect on the King Street streetcar route on Jan. 1.(Click here for what you need to know about the proof-of-payment system.)
Fare inspectors are different from TTC special constables, which are a small group of transit enforcers appointed by Toronto police.
“They’re called fare inspectors, not fare enforcers. I think that’s an important distinction. They’ll be asking people to show proof-of-payment,” TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said on Thursday morning.
“We know that some people can become quite agitated if challenged for proof of payment…”
However, the TTC maintains that it has the right to protect its revenue and its employees from fare thieves.
“If something escalates, they have to be able to protect themselves. It is personal protective equipment — it’s a health and safety issue for us as an employer, for the fare inspectors are employees,” Ross said.
Fare inspector Onorio Vitti told CityNews that while he may be armed, he’s far from dangerous.
“At the end of the day it’s for our protection, it’s for our defence, it’s something that we don’t want to use,” he said.
“We are taught that the baton isn’t meant for striking, it’s meant to create a safety barrier.”
Ross said he understands the concern brought up by Coun. Perks.
“We’re not diminishing it in any way shape or form. We completely accept that — and that’s why we do have talked about the oversight that exists, the training that exists,” Ross said.
Ross said the fare inspectors receive similar training as special constables at the police level, but won’t have the same powers of arrest.
However, they do get eight weeks of training, including one week of use of force education that focuses on de-escalation techniques.
“They receive all sorts of training that is professional to police standards, and there is the oversight. So, if for example, somebody does accuse a fare inspector of using excessive force, that becomes an assault issue and it automatically becomes a police matter for investigation,” Ross said.
Perks wants TTC board members to address concerns about fare inspectors at their next board meeting.
Other city transit authorities that arm their staff:
First introduced in 2005, the Transit Police Service (AKA) South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service (SCBCTAPS) has 169 transit security officers armed with batons, mace, pistols and Tasers.
OC Transpo Transit Law Enforcement Unit has peace officers who have the powers of a police officer to enforce the Criminal Code. They carry batons and pepper spray.
The Winnipeg transit authority has three and were considering another six special constables in spring 2013 who have the power to enforce the city’s transit bylaw, regulating fares, loitering, panhandling and vandalism.
Calgary Transit employs about 71 transit peace officers who have similar powers as a police officer and are equipped with handcuffs, batons, pepper spray and protective body armour.
Last July, the transit authority launched its Transit and Police Partnership, which teams up transit peace officers and Edmonton police to patrol the transit system. They enforce municipal bylaws and have powers and authority under several provincial acts.