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Toronto More than half of Toronto police earn over $100,000; questions raised

A Toronto Police badge is seen during a graduation ceremony on May 14, 2014.

MARK BLINCH/The Globe and Mail

The majority of Toronto Police Service employees earned more than $100,000 last year, prompting the police board to issue another warning shot over policing costs.

The Toronto Police released its annual "sunshine list" Monday, which revealed that 4,125 employees – about 52 per cent of the force – earned more than $100,000 last year, up from 38 per cent the year before. Police leadership blamed this on paid duty – when officers direct traffic or attend private events while they are off-duty – but 86 per cent of employees making the list did so even without it. The amount is earned before taxes or deductions.

Over the past several years, the Toronto Police Services Board, which is in negotiations with the police union over the next collective agreement, has spoken out against ballooning costs. On Monday, the board released a statement expressing concern over the list, pointing to the fact this year's figures include paid duty for the first time.

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"The list serves as a reminder to all concerned that [the] cost of policing, 89 per cent of which is in labour costs, requires action on the part of everyone with a stake in policing," the statement read. It also said that the board has asked Chief Bill Blair to undertake a review of paid duty.

Even without paid duty, about 600 more employees than last year made the list. For years, salaries have been inching closer and closer to the $100,000 mark, with the union estimating an average constable's salary at $90,000. A significant majority of Toronto police constables are in the "first class" category, with the salary range topping out at $98,000 even before overtime or paid duty.

Officers who chose to participate in paid duty, meanwhile, earned an additional $8,900 on average on top of their base salary.

Mayor John Tory, a member of the police board, pointed to some "positive steps" by the force in reducing costs over the past several years – including overtime pay – but said the issue of paid duty deserves a closer look.

"I understand the need for security in circumstances in construction projects and large crowd events and so on. But I think we have to look, given the cost … and the burden it's placing on taxpayers," he said.

Toronto Police union president Mike McCormack called the list "distorted" because a majority of paid-duty costs – about 80 per cent – are paid for through the private sector, and not by taxpayers.

He further defended the salaries, calling the list "irrelevant" because it has not been indexed to inflation since its creation in the mid-1990s.

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"In the environment, in Toronto, where a house costs a million dollars, where gas has gone up double in the last 20 years, $100,000 – I think we provide a great service, and we are compensated for that service," he said.

He also accused the board of playing politics amidst salary negotiations. "This appears to be a political statement," he said. "They know that paid duty is not something that the taxpayers are directly responsible for."

The $1.1-billion police budget represents about 10 per cent of the city's 2015 operating budget.

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