Mayor John Tory is making a push to make significant changes to the way policing is done in the city, especially when it comes to mental health calls.
In a proposal set to be considered at next week’s city council meeting, Tory is asking that the city manager, in consultation with the Toronto Police Services Board, develop alternative models of community safety.
Among those models include the creation of a non-police led response to calls of a mental health crisis that do not involve weapons or violence.
The motion also calls on the province to immediately review and overhaul the Equipment and Use of Force Regulation to emphasis de-escalation, and modify practices that address the use of deadly force.
As well, the motion also asks that the TPSB provide an annual line-by-line breakdown of the existing budget, as well invite the Auditor General to review the budget and identify opportunities for savings and efficiencies.
The mayor is also recommending that city council commit that its “first funding priority for future budgets is centered on a robust system of social supports and services, including ongoing investments in Indigenous, Black and marginalized communities, with rigorous accountability mechanisms to measure performance.”
Tory is also recommending that the city manager develop plans to direct any savings from the police budget to critical community and social services, including initiatives to combat anti-Black racism, and Indigenous-led poverty reduction.
To read the complete motion, click here.
City Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Josh Matlow have also put a motion forward to automatically reduce the police budget by 10 per cent and direct those funds towards community investments.
The motion also recommends requesting the province of Ontario give the city direct oversight of the Toronto Police Services budget.
On Twitter, Wong-Tam said the Mayor’s proposal is “not good enough,” adding there is no budget reduction mentioned which is “at the core of the movement to reform policing.”
Matlow also reacted to Tory’s proposal, tweeting, “Rather than add tens of millions more dollars on body cameras, it’s time to begin defunding the massive police budget & reinvest into community supports/policing alternatives to make our neighborhoods safer.”
Matlow added that Councillors Gord Perks, Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, and Paula Fletcher are supporting their motion.
Premier Doug Ford, however, squarely rejected the idea of cutting money for police.
“I just don’t believe in defunding the police: It’s a massive, massive error,” Ford said. “I don’t believe in cutting police budgets. Simple as that. I believe in increasing them.”
Ford said he supported giving more money to police for better training and community outreach, and to help them better deal with mental health calls. But a 10 per cent cut, he said, would mean 100 fewer frontline officers on the streets.
“You gotta be kidding me,” Ford said. “When you call 911, you expect the call to be answered, you expect the police to be there like ASAP.”
The premier did say those critical of the police response to some in crisis was valid, but insisted budget cuts were not the answer.
Tory, who said council had been flooded with calls and emails demanding changes, said it was imperative council show a total commitment to confronting systemic racism and reforming the current policing model.
“We must fix that model by changing the way policing is done in order to stamp out systemic racism within our police service, and to re-think, in some cases, whether police are the right community response at all,” Tory said. “Now is the time for that change.”
There have been several protests over the last month on the streets of Toronto, with demonstrators calling for an end to anti-Black racism and the defunding of the police service.
Last week, Black Lives Matter Toronto participated in sit-ins outside the Toronto Police Services headquarters and Toronto City Hall, painting “Defund The Police” in giant purple letters in front of police headquarters.
They have called for the defunding and demilitarization of police.
Canada’s largest mental health hospital, the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said this week officers should not respond to incidents involving people in crisis.
Dozens of doctors, who called policing a public health crisis, also urged the reallocation of police money to other community programs.