Proposed Toronto police budget cut would pose ‘unacceptable risk’ to public safety: Chief Demkiw

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw said Thursday that plans to cut more than $12 million out of the proposed police budget would create an “unacceptable risk” to public safety amid increased emergency calls that officers are already struggling to keep pace with.

The Toronto Police Service has put forward what Demkiw called a “modest” 1.7 per cent ($20 million) increase to the police budget, amounting to a total of $1.186 billion.

But in her first proposed budget, Mayor Olivia Chow wants that number cut by more than $12 million — money that Demkiw says is sorely needed to ensure public safety.

Addressing the budget committee on Thursday morning flanked by the entire command of the Police Service Board, Demkiw painted a grim picture of a police force struggling to respond to emergency calls and deal with a growing number of demonstrations across the city.

“I’m committed to supporting Mayor Chow and to working with her during these challenging times,” he said. “However, the city staff recommended budget for policing amounts to a significant cut to what we need.”

“Any reduction to our modest, below-the-rate-of-inflation ask of 1.7 per cent will present an unacceptable risk to our ability to provide the adequate and effective police services that are required by legislation.”

“I do ask the city — what options were weighed to determine that a $12.6 million cut to policing was responsible and would not impact public safety?”

The police chief argued that citizens will suffer in the face of a growing population while allocation to “public safety continues to decrease.”

He used the example of police response times to 911 emergency calls as evidence of the growing strain on officers that would only be exacerbated by Chow’s proposed cut.

“As response times to emergency 911 calls continue to increase and the service often has no cars available to attend as it stands now, a cut of this magnitude will further degrade our capacity to respond quickly to protect our residents.”

“Our response times to priority one emergency calls is an unprecedented and dangerous high of 22 minutes. I hope you agree that our city’s residents deserve better.”

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