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Cameras, sound cannons among G20 equipment Toronto police aim to keep Add to ...

Toronto police want to keep 52 of the 77 surveillance cameras they temporarily purchased for the G20 summit, more than tripling the force's stock of CCTV equipment.

They would buy them back at half price from the federal government, which is footing the bill for G20 security.

The police also plan to buy back 400 of 5,200 sets of tactical safety gear, including helmets, gas masks and eye shields, as well as the three sound-cannon LRADs police acquired leading up to the summit.

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The extra surveillance cameras, which would bring the Toronto Police Service's total to 76 cameras, are needed in the city's expanding entertainment district, said Police Chief Bill Blair. While he wouldn't name specific areas he'd like to see the new cameras set up, he said areas of the city's burgeoning, westward-expanding club district would be among the top on his list.

"They've been very effective in the entertainment district but it's starting to move a little bit west, so there's some additional places we would like to deploy cameras," he said.

The city now has 24 CCTV cameras. Not all are deployed.

Chief Blair added that despite expediting the purchasing process and eschewing customary board approval and tendering processes for more than $13-million of G20-related security expenditures, police were as thrifty as they could be - and, he says, they came in well under budget.

While they'd planned for "worst-case scenario" expenditures as high as $124-million for the approximately 10,000 officers from 22 different police forces, total expenses came in around $76-million. More than 1,000 people were arrested over the weekend. In the months following, the police forces involved have come under criticism for what many allege was police misconduct. Chief Blair told a Commons committee on public safety last month that almost 100 officers face disciplinary action for failing to display their name badges. Only one Toronto police officer has faced such discipline since the name badge rule was introduced in 2006.

Expenses brought before the Toronto Police Services Board Monday included $2,246,478.89 for safety headwear; more than $5-million on hotel rooms; $1,769,853.36 to lease the film studio used as detention centres on Eastern Avenue; $1,176,179.53 for CCTV cameras and other fibre-optic materials cost; $4,612,394.11 for radio rentals; and more than $2.2-million on meals.

Contracts for the CCTV equipment and radios were not put out for competitive bids.

Toronto police expect the federal government to cover the entire $76-million bill, but Chief Blair said police hope to buy back much of the equipment they purchased for the summit.

Ironically, G20-related costs actually helped the cash-strapped police force keep to its $888-million 2010 operating budget: While it was projected several months ago to finish the year over-budget, it's now right on target - thanks in part to money saved on uniforms purchased for the G20, as well as time spent "preparing for and policing" the G20 summit.

Meantime, while the police force enters into budget plans with the city and prepares for contract talks with the Toronto Police Association, mayor-elect Rob Ford said his top spending priority is new officers - 100 of them, despite reports that crime rates have been dropping for the past several years.

"The first thing I want to do with that money that we find is hire police officers. … I think that's where people want their money to be spent," Mr. Ford said on Newstalk 1010 Monday morning.

"I support the police. And I want this city to be safe. And I'm not going to tolerate any nonsense when I'm mayor."

Chief Blair said he hasn't had a chance to discuss the possibility of new officers, but added he's mindful of budget constraints the force faces. About 90 per cent of its costs are salary-related.

"If we find additional resources, I'd try to the best of my ability to put new boots on the street," he said. "People want to see police officers in their neighbourhoods."

But criminal lawyer and civil-liberties advocate Clayton Ruby argued the "idea we need more police officers is insane."

"In a country or in a city where crime is falling rapidly, and has been for a long, long time, there's no point in putting on more police officers."

Mr. Ruby added the police service's intention to keep most of the G20-specific surveillance equipment should come as no surprise. But it's an unnecessary step, he argued.

"They change the nature of public space and they change the nature of the kind of privacy the Constitution guarantees to every citizen."

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