The Elephant in the Room – Defunding the Police – Update

Elephant in the room fall winter 2021

Properly Funding Emergency Response

By Quintin Johnstone, Founder & CEO of Samsonshield Inc. / Riskboss Inc.

As described by Wikipedia, “Elephant in the Room” is an American English metaphorical idiom for an obvious problem or risk that no one wants to discuss.” Controversial yes; however, very necessary conversation(s) here at Riskboss Magazine. In every publication, Riskboss Magazine will address the latest Elephant in the Room to clearly answer hard asked questions.

In the spring of 2021, Riskboss Magazine published an Elephant in the Room article about Defunding the Police content/uploads/2023/12/Riskboss-Magazine-Spring-Summer- 2021.pdf. It is equally relevant today as it was.

The following is an update to that article given the recent events on police funding in Toronto. We hope that you read both the 2021 article and this update to highlight the issues that our first responders are facing.

We need to thank Jon Reid and the team at Toronto Police Association (TPA) for leading the ongoing grind to highlight inadequate resources that front-line police officers and support teams have been forced to work with for years.

Reported in the media, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) requested an operating budget increase for 2024. The increase request is reported to address declining response times of front-line police officers to calls for service. This request came with controversy.

911 emergency calls

Emergency calls were up 18% in 2023. Emergency response times to those calls for help sat at an unbelievable 22 minutes, this after a reported average 6-minute call hold to a 911 call taker.

Noteworthy, it was the TPS Board itself that approved the benchmark minimum standard for priority one emergency calls at 6 minutes in 1995.

The 2024 budget ask by the TPS was for 307 new police officers, and more 911 call takers. This would bring the complement of front-line officers to well below the peak in 2009 when the population of Toronto was much smaller, and virtually the same as the complement of police officers twenty (20) years ago.

By contrast, between 2010 and 2023, the City of Toronto’s population increased dramatically by 13% (460,000 people). During that same time of permanent resident expansion, Toronto lost 11% or six hundred (600) police officers.

The City of Toronto continues to increase in population by about 80,000 permanent residents per year. It is forecasted that the population of the City of Toronto will be 3.5 million by the year 2030. Are 307 new police officers enough to reduce 911 response times to the 1995 six (6) minute standard set by the TPS Board in 1995? Clearly not. Will we be ready for 2030? Very unlikely.

A shocking 60% of emergency calls for service have been recently reported as going unanswered as no cars are available to respond.

This is not a new phenomenon. In a June 2022 report by the Ontario Auditor General, reported that,

“In 2019, TPS did not meet its target of six minutes 72 per cent of the time for priority one and 92 per cent of the time for priority two calls for service.”

One of the tasks that cannot be outsourced is the expectation and call demand for response for front-line police officers in emergency situations. The public expectation is that someone is coming soon.

Advocates for defunding the police call for a reduction in police budgets with that money being reallocated to ‘more effective’ methods of community safety and security. Most people don’t know that this has already been quietly happening in Toronto for decades reallocating what once was a police job to other areas of the City budget.

After a decade and a half of reducing police officers along with “detasking” and zero-based hiring budgets while the population has risen exponentially is penny wise and pound foolish to those in the know. For those who see it up close and personal on the front lines, police officers hear the pain from hyper-frustrated residents.

There have been ongoing calls to further reduce the burden of responsibilities and expectations on emergency responders even more than what has already been attempted. Equally, there have been calls to increase resources to reduce emergency wait times.

The trend continues to move policing away from calls for service outside of their role and focusing on primarily on emergency response and community safety. When 911 calls are being affected, that’s it; there is no more room for cutting.

TPS police chief Myron Demkiw commented during the latest budget, “As our city’s population grows at record levels, spreading our officers’ time any thinner by not hiring would lead to increased member burnout and less safe emergency response for Torontonians.”

The fight between the TPS and the City came down to an eleventh- hour capitulation by the mayor to allow the full budget request by the TPS Board. But what does that actually get them? This money has been earmarked specifically to reduce response times, nothing more.

What do you need to do as a condominium Board on this issue? Increase operational and emergency readiness because frankly, the reduction in response times will take years to reduce to an acceptable level. Condominium communities need to be more self-reliant.

At Riskboss, we are always here to assist property managers. We are just a call away.
We can also come to your site for a free, no-obligation 30-minute tour to provide some guidance on risk identification and mitigation.
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