Toronto Mayor John Tory is proposing a list of police reforms for city council to debate next week, including examining alternative models to deal with people in mental-health crises. But he remains opposed to calls from some councillors for an immediate 10-per-cent chop to next year’s police budget.
The centrepiece of a new motion from Mr. Tory would see Toronto’s city manager consult the Toronto Police Services Board and the public on the “creation of non-police-led response to calls which do not involve weapons or violence, such as those involving individuals experiencing mental-health crises.” It also asks the city manager to detail the “likely reductions” to the police budget that would result, in a report for Mr. Tory’s executive committee due in January, 2021.
Local politicians in Canada’s largest city will take up the issue in a virtual meeting Monday that follows a wave of global protests against police violence and anti-Black racism, and recent police incidents across Canada and in the Greater Toronto Area that ended in the deaths of Black, Indigenous and South Asian people.
“This will lead to real change, now,” Mr. Tory said of his proposals. “Sensible, meaningful policing change must happen. And we will, through these recommendations, lay out the steps to ensure that it does happen.”
The mayor laid out his motion on Thursday, flanked by deputy mayor Michael Thompson, the city’s only Black councillor, and Councillor Shelley Carroll, who like Mr. Thompson is a former member of the police board, on which Mr. Tory sits. The mayor says he welcomes debate and input from other councillors on the changes, and appealed for unity.
The plan is a response to a competing motion already on the table. Seizing on calls from protesters to “defund” the police, or shift money and duties from police to other community programs, Councillors Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam are supporting a motion requesting an immediate 10-per-cent cut to the Toronto force’s $1.22-billion budget for next year.
Mr. Tory has rejected the setting of a hard target for a reduction as arbitrary. Ms. Carroll said Thursday the measure of success should not be the size of any budget cut, but real changes to the way police work: “The report card cannot be a number.”
In an interview, Mr. Matlow said there was much in Mr. Tory’s motion he would support, but that it did not go far enough: “There’s a lot of good words in there, a lot of references to recommendations that should have been implemented long ago.”
Speaking in support of the mayor’s motion, Mr. Thompson – who in 2016 had called for an immediate $24-million cut to the police budget – said progress on police reform has been disappointing.
“Now, finally the world spotlight is on policing,” he said. “And people do not like what they see. They expect more from those sworn to serve and protect.”
On the police budget, long criticized as opaque, Mr. Tory’s proposal would ask the police board to direct the chief to make public a detailed “line-by-line breakdown” of the police budget. Unlike Mr. Matlow’s motion, it does not call on the province to give city council direct authority over the details of police spending and reverse restrictions of council’s powers originally meant to minimize local political interference.
The mayor’s motion also demands that police fully implement recommendations in various past reports and coroner’s inquests, including a call for more widespread use of the force’s existing mobile-crisis intervention teams. At the moment, these teams, comprised of a nurse and a specially trained officer, only respond to about a quarter of calls about people in mental distress.
Mr. Tory’s proposal also calls on council to make social supports and services and investments in “Indigenous, Black and marginalized communities” its “first funding priority.” And it asks the province to overhaul use-of-force rules and undo its recent weakening of the powers of its Special Investigations Unit, which probes police violence. It also calls for body-worn cameras on Toronto police by Jan. 1, 2021.
The police board is due to hold its own online forum July 9 on similar proposals floated by the mayor and board chairman Jim Hart last week but put off to allow for more public consultations.
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