Nearly 1,000 officers will lose their jobs if Mayor Rob Ford’s administration goes ahead with a 10-per-cent cut to the Toronto police budget, Chief Bill Blair said Wednesday.
Earlier this year, City Hall asked Chief Blair and the civilian board that oversees the force to reduce spending by roughly $83-million. They have instituted a hiring freeze, eliminated 18 management jobs through early retirement and chopped overtime spending by 10 per cent. These cuts, however, are not enough to meet the target.
Since salaries and benefits comprise 90 per cent of the force’s budget, layoffs are inevitable if the Ford administration wants to achieve its goal, Chief Blair said in an interview on CITY-TV.
“The majority of that $83-million that could be found will have to be found in salaries and the only way to achieve those savings is to have fewer people on the payroll,” he said.
But the chair of the police board, which must approve layoffs, said the chief’s calculation on the number of required job cuts is too high because there are still more efficiencies to be found, such as by combining the force’s administrative functions with those of other city departments. Attrition and a buyout package, if the city provides money for one, would be sufficient to reduce staffing, he said.
“Layoffs are not a practical option for the 2012 budget,” said Alok Mukherjee.
Service levels are mandated by the province and the police union will likely fight any attempt to give its members pink slips.
“We would take every legal action possible to ensure that this does not happen,” Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said. “It would take, in a conservative estimate, several years to grind through the legal process if police are laid off.”
Mr. Ford was circumspect.
“I’ve always supported the police and the last thing I want as mayor is to have less police officers,” he said. “I’ve asked all the departments to find efficiencies and we’ll take it from there.”
With a report from Elizabeth Church