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EXCLUSIVE: Was there a police shortage night of fatal Yonge-Dundas shooting?

Last Updated Jun 1, 2018 at 8:23 am EDT

At approximately 11:07 p.m. Wednesday, a man was gunned down at one of Toronto’s busiest intersections, Yonge-Dundas Square, and the suspects got away.

CityNews has exclusively obtained an email that purportedly shows a Toronto police officer from 51 division sounding the alarm over what they perceived to be a lack of police on city streets — less than one hour before the fatal shooting.

The email, purportedly written by a 30-year veteran of the Toronto police service, and allegedly sent to police chief Mark Saunders and the president of the Toronto Police Association Mike McCormack, addressed the “overwhelming amount of work that is just piling up… and so very few of us to do it.”

A copy of the email allegedly sent by a 30-year veteran of the Toronto police service to police chief Mark Saunders and the president of the Toronto Police Association Mike McCormack

According to the email, allegedly sent shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, all five police cruisers working in 51 Division were “tied up,” with 31 calls still pending.

In the email, the officer said they fear “a police officer is going to get hurt due to the lack of back-up.”

Less than an hour later, the call for a shooting in Yonge-Dundas Square came into 51 Division. The victim, identified as 18-year-old Israel Edwards of Pickering, later died in hospital.

The officer called the email “a plea for help, which seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” and asks for more police officers on the road immediately.

“I have never been so disillusioned with the lack of help offered by the Command of this Service,” the email said.

Neither Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash nor Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack would verify the authenticity of the email.

But McCormack said the email is indicative of the way their officers and civilian workers feel within Toronto police right now.

“The email that was sent out speaks to the frustration not only for response times to shootings, but response times in general and the amount of police officers available,” said McCormack.

McCormack said the staffing levels represented in the email are typical. “In our divisional staffing model, there’s generally less than 175 police officers patrolling the whole city at any given time.”

McCormack said they have lost around 174 police officers and new ones haven’t been hired. Over the last five years, they are down almost 600 officers.

“Our members are continually being asked to do more with less and it’s just not working.”

Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said the police chief is very aware of the concerns that were laid out in the email.

Pugash said the chief has been speaking with front line officers and are doing the best they can to ensure they have the resources they need.

“We are more nimble than we have ever been in being able to move resources around where we are seeing upticks in violence. They are looking to find other ways to enable our people to have the resources they need to do the job.”

He adds their analysts and intelligence people are looking at data in order to provide officers with proactive enforcement efforts, but there really is no predictability.

“We are very skilled at prioritizing and skilled at responding,” Pugash said.

Pugash said he did not have the response time available for the Yonge-Dundas Square shooting from Wednesday night, but he said they have seen an increase in violence over the last week and a half.

There have been four killings in public areas in the downtown core this year so far, including one earlier this week in Yorkville.

So far in 2018, gun violence alone in downtown Toronto has increased by over 150 per cent compared to this time last year.

“We do see spikes and they are taken extremely seriously. The service is devoting whatever resources are necessary to ensure that investigators get what they need to do the job.”

Pugash added “The command is aware of the pressures on front line officers and they are exploring urgent options to address those issues.”

Mayor John Tory said he has spoken with the chief and deputy police chief and said they have assured him they have deployed additional resources to try and address this wave of violence.

“The time for talk is over,” said McCormack. “We want to hear the action plans and how the chief is going to deal with this issue which we believe is a crises in policing.”