The Toronto Police Services Board is one step closer to bringing back special constables to the TTC.
TTC CEO Andy Byford is hoping that, if all goes as planned at next month’s meeting, special constables will be on the job at the beginning of 2014.
Transit police, who serve as the main security enforcement within trains and on platforms, were stripped of the special-constable status in 2010 after allegations emerged that they were exceeding their authority.
Without constable status, transit officers had very limited power: They could not make an arrest unless they had personally witnessed the crime. In cases where they had witnessed it, they had to hold the detainee until Toronto Police arrived.
Mr. Byford argued before the board that policing the transit system is useless without granting greater law-enforcement powers to transit officers.
“What that led to was customers who have referred a matter to a transit officer being very dissatisfied because they saw the transit officers as either being impotent, or ignoring their complaint, when that simply wasn’t the case,” he said.
As special constables, officers would carry batons, handcuffs and pepper spray. But guns would not be distributed.
Mr. Byford said he has been working relentlessly since 2010 with Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair to get the status reinstated.
“There were a number of hurdles to overcome,” said Mr. Byford. “I’ve made it a personal crusade of mine to meet with the police chief, to spend time with the police chief, to get his confidence back.”
Chief Blair echoed those sentiments, saying he’s thrilled with idea and he hopes that in this joint effort, the TTC and Toronto police will work together to create a safer commuting environment.
“We’ve worked very collaboratively together and I think a good agreement has been put in place,” said Chief Blair. “I certainly support Mr. Byford’s request that authority … be given to his transit enforcement people. We will continue to have our transit patrol unit and police officers who also work in the transit system and I think the combination of the two will ensure that the entire system remains safer.”
The TTC currently staffs 32 officers, but Mr. Byford said he wants to restore that number back to 42.
Next month’s meeting is slated for Nov. 7.