Mayor Rob Ford says he is willing to consider hiring additional officers for the Toronto Police Service.
The Mayor’s words come after the force, subject to a two-year hiring freeze, instituted mandatory overtime to boost police presence in direct response to the largest mass shooting in the city’s history. But Mayor Ford said Thursday the decision on whether to increase the police ranks is not his alone.
“That’s up to the [Police] Chief [Bill Blair] and myself,” he told reporters at the opening of a waterfront park. “We’ll have to sit down and discuss that.”
The current uniformed strength of the police service is about 5,400 officers, but that number is shrinking because jobs lost to attrition are not being filled.
While crime is generally dropping in Canada’s biggest city, there has been a sharp uptick in shootings this year. Among them were fatal shootings in the Eaton Centre food court and on the patio of an ice cream shop in Little Italy, and a gun battle at a Scarborough block party that left two people dead and another 23 injured.
The violence has municipal and provincial officials working to calm nerves and prevent more incidents.
The province has pledged to pump $12.5-million in new funding into the battle against gun violence. The money will provide permanent funding for the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), which places police in high-crime neighbourhoods to build connections with residents, nab guns and arrest suspects.
Despite the TAVIS funding, Chief Blair told the Globe’s editorial board this week that the force will be 200 officers short of its authorized strength by the end of the year.
“Would more police officers help? I think there’s a point of diminishing return, but certainly I believe more police officers would help,” he said Tuesday.
Last week, Chief Blair announced that starting with this weekend’s Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto and for the next six weeks, he is requiring officers to work overtime, adding a daily average of 328 officers in high-crime areas for August.
Chief Blair said Tuesday that when he talked with Premier Dalton McGuinty at last week’s summit on gun violence, he did not ask for extra funding, but said he would make do with existing resources.
Chief Blair said the police service is reviewing its practices to find ways to save money.