Toronto Police Service calls for 3.9 per cent budget increase

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders delivers remarks and takes questions from reporters at a press conference in Toronto, on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The Toronto Police Service is proposing a 3.9 per cent increase for its 2020 budget.

The proposed budget submitted by Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders to the police board Friday has a total of $1.076 billion, an increase of $40.8 million over the 2019 budget.

Saunders noted a big chunk of the increase would be allotted to cover salary raises negotiated in the new collective bargaining agreement. The remaining money would be used to fund new initiatives and hire 341 new officers.

"The Service will continue to focus on intelligence-led policing and deployment to ensure we are where the public needs us most," Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said in a statement Friday.

"We are investing in both our uniform and civilian people and serving our communities. We are adding resources to improve public safety, address pedestrian and traffic safety, and building stronger partnerships through the expansion of our Neighbourhood Community Officer Program," he said.

Among the investments include 140 new police officers to address the rising number of calls for service and major crimes, eight new traffic officers, expanding the neighbourhood community officers program, five new positions to develop equity and inclusion policies, and body-worn cameras.

Saunders said that they are saving $6 million by implementing new shift schedules and reducing overtime with the hiring of additional officers.

Mayor John Tory said the draft budget shows that the city is making necessary investments to improve public safety and modernize the police service.

"Supporting the police is an essential part of the city's ongoing response to gun violence along with investments in communities to address the roots of violence which I look forward to supporting during the city's budget process together with urging tougher bail and sentencing laws when it comes to gun crimes," said Tory.

The mayor added that the new neighbourhood officers would be embedded in one neighbourhood for four years to work with residents and community-based organizations to address crime, disorder and community safety issues.

The police board is inviting the public to share their input on the proposed budget at next week's public meeting.

If the budget passes the police board, it will be put before the city council for approval.