The Toronto Police Services Board says it intends to postpone a debate scheduled for Friday on proposed reforms after an outcry that it was moving too quickly to allow public consultations.
The board, which oversees the Toronto Police Service, was set to discuss a list of proposals from chairman Jim Hart, supported by Toronto Mayor John Tory, that would have expanded mental-health crisis teams and anti-racism training while requiring the force make its line-by-line budget public.
The proposals, unveiled on Wednesday, also call for the city and police to engage in talks on a new, non-police agency that could handle calls involving people in mental-health crises.
The list of potential reforms came in response to the recent wave of protests against police violence and anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism – and calls across North America to dramatically reduce police budgets and reallocate the money to social services. Activists and police critics largely dismissed the proposed reforms as piecemeal.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the board said it would vote on a motion to put off debate about the proposals to give the public and the board’s own advisory panels on racial issues and mental health more time to voice their opinions. A revised report would then be brought to a future board meeting for a vote.
“Following release of the chair’s report earlier this week, the board heard important calls from the public and stakeholders for additional time to consult on any recommendations that come before the board,” the statement says.
The delay will also allow city council, due to meet at the end of the month, to weigh in with its own ideas on police reform first. A motion from city councillors Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam calls for a 10-per-cent chop to the police force’s $1.22-billion budget next year, with the money redirected to mental-health or community programs.
Mr. Tory, while saying he is committed to speeding up police reform, has called the motion arbitrary. Other motions on the police are also expected to hit the council floor in the debate.
“The board believes that it is critical to wait and allow the discussion and decisions of city council to inform the final drafting of this report,” the statement reads.
The police services board, on which Mr. Tory sits, says it will announce details of a consultation process shortly with a forum for public participation scheduled for the week of July 6. People who asked to speak at Friday’s police board meeting will be invited to participate in this forum – and again before the board when the new proposals are brought to a vote at a future meeting.
The debates over the reforms come just days after the city’s first Black police chief, Mark Saunders, announced he was retiring as of July 31, eight months ahead of schedule.
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