4 July, 2012
The city’s audit committee voted Tuesday to move toward eliminating paid-duty police officers at construction and work sites, with Councillor Josh Matlow citing a “collective frustration” at the system’s high costs.
“When the average person would see, with all due respect, our police officers standing at work sites for hours on end, it would frustrate them beyond end, and the public was asking us to take substantive action on this,” Mr. Matlow said.
The city was already looking at alternatives to Toronto’s paid-duty system, but Mr. Matlow’s motion — which passed 4-2 in committee and will now move to council for a final vote — goes further, calling for a more in-depth review “with a view to phasing out paid-duty policing at construction and other work sites.”
The city spent $7.8-million on paid-duty officers in 2009, most of that cost embedded in roadwork and utility contracts. Private companies also rely on paid-duty officers to guard special events.
Off-duty cops charge $65 an hour for paid-duty work.
Last year, the city’s budget committee recommended looking at other systems, such as Vancouver’s model, where non-union special constables perform traffic control. Councillor Shelley Carroll, who voted against Mr. Matlow’s motion Tuesday, said councillors should await the outcome of that review before expanding its terms.
“It’s our job to make sure … that we don’t spend so much time in audit and review that we stop the machine from working,” she said.
Toronto Police are already in the midst of an “exhaustive review” of paid-duty systems in other major cities, including New York, said Tony Veneziano, the force’s chief administrative officer.
“There’s some real opportunities there to streamline the processes as well as better define when paid duties are required,” Mr. Veneziano said, noting police expect to complete the review by the end of the year.
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