Change is hitting Toronto’s front line officers hard, and morale is reportedly at an all-time low on the city’s police force. That’s according to a Toronto Police Association survey, where half of respondents say their overall morale is negative.
“Our officers feel like they can’t do the job that they could be or should be doing in their commitment to the city,” Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, told CityNews.
“What’s causing the big issue is our officers are stressed out, going from call to call, time off is not heard of, and they’re uncertain about their future.”
The survey, which featured responses from the association’s 1,250 members, was done at the end of 2016. It showed only 23 per cent of respondents agree or strongly agree with the statement that “they’re optimistic with their future success with the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The reasoning behind that, according to the union, is the Transformational Task Force report. Seventy-one per cent of respondents say that report has had a negative impact on their morale.
Read highlights from the association survey below:
McCormack said the Transformational Task Force report is a Band-Aid solution. That report recommends closing divisions, a hiring and promotions freeze, and putting officers back walking the beat and staying in communities for at least three years.
“We definitely have a role to play if the service wants to make these types of moves or changes. They need our membership to buy in,” said McCormack.
The city’s police chief says he isn’t surprised that morale is low on the force, and anticipated the union’s concerns.
“The whole lack of information on people who are saying, ‘how this is going to affect my life?’ and not having answers to those questions, would certainly cause angst, and it certainly has,” Mark Saunders told CityNews following a Toronto Police Service Board meeting Thursday.
That meeting saw the board approving the 34 recommendations in the Transformational Task Force report. The recommendations are supposed to trim $100 million from the police budget. Some of those recommendations will see a reduction in the size of the police force.
Saunders says he is optimistic the report will be implemented to its fullest, and says in order to be successful, they will have to work with the association and hold candid discussions.
“This is the opportunity for us to be giving information, be making sure that information is available,” he said. “People can have an opportunity of going wherever they need to go to get whatever information they need, and to ask the questions that are reflective of the concerns they have.”
The Association’s survey also found 52 per cent of respondents said they would consider seeking employment with another police force. Of those, 67 per cent are officers with more than five years experience.
Retired Toronto police officer Dave McCormack (no relation to Mike McCormack) says he isn’t surprised to learn about the largest group looking to leave their positions, but that could be due to career aspirations.
“That’s the time frame when sworn officers are really starting to hit their stripes and start to recognize that they have career opportunities,” he said. “But to hear that there’s a three-year moratorium on hiring and promotions, it’s something that’s going to make them feel like they don’t have any opportunities at this time.”
Dave McCormack added that low morale can also impact job performance, and can contribute to a more dangerous situation out in the field if officers aren’t engaged.
“The officers who are out there really don’t know who is looking for their best interest, and I know the Chief says he is, and I believe the Chief is, but the officers need to know that,” he explains. “It really comes back to community, they need to know they have the backing to go out and lawfully do their duty, to make the city safer. And if morale is low and that’s a contributing factor, they don’t feel like they have that backing, there is a real likelihood that not all officers are going to do that.”
The former officer also says the Chief’s commitments to reaffirming future plans of the police force could help increase officer morale.
“It’s good to hear that there will be some more information coming to clarify for the members, but I find it a little disconcerning that this process has been going on for a year and communications should have been constant throughout, so that the members knew what was coming, as much as could have been released.”