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Members of Toronto Police Services Board reject study into staffing levels

Toronto police chief Bill Blair is photographed in his office at police headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, Friday December 27, 2013.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's police force needs innovation – not more officers – say two members of the police services board who are dismayed by the results of a $500,000 study into staffing levels.

The "right number review" was requested by the board to get an independent evaluation of the city's policing needs against a backdrop of changing technology and limited financial resources.

The report by consulting firm Accenture, which the board will debate on Thursday, says the city needs another 178 officers above the approved strength of 5,604 "to provide adequate and effective policing."

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City councillors Michael Thompson and Mike Del Grande – who have both been critical of rising police spending – say the report's recommendation ignores financial realities.

"I can tell you I am not happy with the process and I am not happy with the results," said Mr. Thompson, vice-chair of the police board.

He said the board asked the force to figure out how it could manage with less and, instead, has been given a "business as usual" report.

He said this reflects a lack of innovation, suggesting it is time to look for someone with "great ideas" to replace Chief Bill Blair when his contract ends next year.

"The issue for me now is really how the organization is led," Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Del Grande, who called for the review in his former role as chair of the city's budget committee, questioned the independence of the study.

"I was very clear: The chief should not have his hands in it. Did that occur? No," Mr. Del Grande said on Wednesday. "This was to be independent. The chief shouldn't be involved, period.

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Police spokesman Mark Pugash would not discuss details of the report. "If board members have concerns, the chief will address those concerns tomorrow," he said. Mr. Blair's contract is a matter to be "discussed with the police services board."

Chief Blair, whose contract ends next year, dismissed criticism that the force needs fresh ideas once his term expires. "I've got a discussion to have with my board," he said Thursday, after a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board. "People are entitled to their opinion. But we should deal with that matter, quite frankly, in a professional way." He said he will "not respond to personal attacks or political rhetoric."

- With files from Ann Hui

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