All-door streetcar boarding was pitched as a simple and cheap way to speed up transit service. But the fact that the TTC has armed employees watching for fare-jumpers raised some eyebrows.
The TTC says these civilian employees have batons for personal protection and carry handcuffs should they need to detain someone. They have use of force training "to police standard," but that has not been enough to quell concerns about accountability and safety.
The transit agency's CEO, Andy Byford, said this week the TTC would seek an additional $8-million for fare inspectors next year.
There are 20 fare inspectors now on staff, with another 20 being hired and a further 60 expected by the end of 2015 if the funding is approved. The increase will make these inspectors a common presence throughout the TTC, operating under internal oversight.
"The City of Toronto already has issues around police accountability and public safety," Councillor Gord Perks said on Wednesday. He added that TTC overseers "absolutely don't have the investigative expertise to see whether a transit rider or ordinary person was struck with a club."
The councillor – who has written to new TTC chairman Josh Colle to flag his concerns – is also worried that the officers could open up the city to potential legal action.
"In the agreement between police services and TTC, they do speak to meeting high standards in terms of training, accountability and civilian oversight to protect the city and the TTC from legal action," Mr. Perks said. "I would infer that these guys who aren't constables are putting the city and the TTC at some legal risk."
Brad Ross, spokesman for the TTC, said oversight of the fare inspectors is no different than what transit enforcement officers were subject to after they lost their special-constable status.
"The mere fact that the Fare Inspectors are not appointed through [the Toronto Police Services Board} does not mean that there is no oversight or there is greater risk," he wrote in an email.
In a phone interview, Mr. Ross confirmed that the fare inspectors are subject to internal oversight. But he said police would handle allegations of serious wrong-doing, such as assault, saying the complaint would become a criminal investigation.
Mr. Ross said the fare inspectors receive eight weeks of training, six in the classroom and two on the job. He noted that six days of the classroom training are dedicated to use of force. This includes de-escalation and communication, instruction about statutes and laws, simulations and practical training. No fare inspector has used a baton on the job, he said.
"It's a tool that is there for their protection, it's personal protective equipment," the TTC spokesman said.
"In this job … there's the potential for these encounters to escalate when people don't appreciate being asked for proof of payment, and they certainly don't appreciate a $235 fine. So, should something escalate while they're waiting for police, they need to be able to defend themselves."