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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Undercover: Toronto's Police Budget
07/02/2004

At 22%, the police department is, by far, the most significant destination for your City of Toronto property tax dollars. This year Chief Fantino is asking for $690 million (an 8% increase of $53.6M). However, it is very hard to tell whether or not the amount is appropriate.

The Globe and Mail has an analysis of the city's police budget today (part 1, part 2), accompanied by a column from John Barber. The Toronto Star also has a long article about Chief Fantino and the politics that surround him.

What's clear is that in this year's Toronto budget process there is nothing more controversial than the police.

On one hand, there is a public issue with murder and mayhem in Toronto. On the other hand, the stats show that crime is down and police spending is way up.

It is all complicated by the fact that City Council is not permitted to review the police budget on a line by line basis. In fact, the Police Services Board is not even required to give the budget to city council -- just summary notes justifying the amount.

What we have instead is an attitude that we should just defer to and trust the police on anything to do with budgeting. The Chief Knows Best, and he won't ask for a dollar more than is absolutely necessary! Quotes from the Globe and Mail:

[Rick McIntosh, president of the Toronto Police Association] said politicians shouldn't be able to vet the police budget. "How can you expect a municipal politician -- or any politician -- to understand a $700-million budget line by line, when most people have no clue about policing?" he said.

[Former police board chairwoman Gloria Lindsay Luby says] "When you are a layperson, it would be very tempting to say, 'Well, just cancel the police on bicycles.' But the chief himself would know what the impact of that would be. . . . We preferred not to nickel and dime him."

It's the Ontario Police Services Act that sets up an independent civilian board to manage the police, rather than let council handle it. Unfortunately, as John Barber writes today, the board is an undesirable posting and members are said to be intimidated. So, it would seem that Chief Fantino commands his own fief.

Typically in our society the people that talk the most about controlling spending and keeping costs down are found on the right wing of the political spectrum. However, the right wing is also where strong support for the police and military is most often found, as well as obedience to leaders of these forces. When it comes to debating Toronto's police budget, the winds are reversed.


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