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Police union threatens court action over budget freeze

Toronto police block off Rosedale Valley Rd. at Park Rd. after a car accident took down a utility pole on Oct. 15, 2012.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's police union is threatening to take legal action against the city if it makes good on a threatened flat-lining of the police budget that could force nearly 200 layoffs.

The tough talk from Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, ratchets up the tension between the police and the Ford administration ahead of a police board showdown on Dec. 10 – the same day Mayor Rob Ford could be ejected from office if he does not win a temporary suspension of a court decision to toss him from office for breaking the Municipal Conflict-of-Interest Act.

Mr. McCormack said he is prepared to "take any legal action possible to ensure we have sufficient officers … including going before the courts."

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That would not be a first.

In the 1970s, the courts upheld an arbitrator's ruling obliging the police service to staff all cruisers on the road between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. with two officers, a decision that dramatically increased the size of the force.

Mr. McCormack also suggested the association could take the city to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, an independent oversight agency that ensures communities have adequate police services.

Such a move would be unprecedented for the union, Mr. McCormack said last week, after the city unveiled a draft 2013 budget with no increase to the police budget. "It's an irresponsible way to look at it," he said of the city's demand for savings. "I've got a bunch of people who aren't experts in policing, who have no understanding of what we do, saying, 'Oh, let's cut and see what happens.'"

The Ford administration and the senior bureaucrats in charge of budgeting have been engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken with Toronto police for months. If the force cannot freeze its spending, council would be forced to slash elsewhere or jack up a proposed property-tax increase of 1.95 per cent.

The city is asking Toronto police to spend the same amount it did last year: $949.14-million.

But Police Chief Bill Blair says the force needs an additional $21.3-million to keep pace with contractually mandated salary costs. Salaries make up 90 per cent of the force's budget. Without that extra money, the chief has said, he would be forced to lay off 137 officers and 52 civilians.

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Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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