Police union advises officers to take action amid 'breaking point'
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, July 10, 2017 5:01PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 10, 2017 10:11PM EDT
The union representing Toronto police officers is telling its members to find ways to “de-stress”, saying its overworked members are “at a breaking point” and need relief.
On a new website launching today, stopthetorontopolicecuts.ca, the union says officers are facing a crisis of cuts and urges the public to contact the Toronto Police Services Board to voice concern.
The union is advising its members to take a number of steps to reduce on-the-job stress amid workplace conditions it calls “extraordinary,” CP24 has learned.
The advice was sent to members by the TPA board in a July 4 communique obtained by CP24.
The note to members takes aim at the transitional task force and says that it is having a “profoundly negative impact” on officers’ health and morale.
“As you know, we are living in extraordinary times. Never before in the history of the Toronto Police Service have front-line members been asked to do so much with so few resources and so little support from management,” the communiqué reads.
Among the recommendations, the Toronto Police Association is advising members to take their lunches whenever possible in order to de-stress, limit the use of personal cellphones for work purposes and to “take as much time as you need to complete calls for service appropriately” rather than responding to “arbitrary” time pressure from commanders.
The note claims officers are being rushed from call to call, resulting in a poorer quality of service and charges being thrown out because over-stressed officers make mistakes.
“We’ve hit what we believe is an all-time crisis right now because of the inadequate staffing for police officers and civilians out in the field right now,” Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack told CP24. “Our officers and civilians have been doing a great job and have been working diligently but we have hit a crisis point.
“Morale is at an all-time low, civilian burnout, officer burnout – we are constantly being asked to do more with less and we are very concerned right now it is having an impact on officer safety and public safety.”
Toronto police are considered an essential service and are therefore not allowed to strike.
The pushback from the union comes amid a hiring freeze for new officers. It also comes as the force tries to implement a plan to modernize based on recommendations put forward by the Transformational Task Force in its final report in January and approved by the police board a month later.
Some of the recommendations that have angered the union include a call to close some police stations and to use civilian employees for some non-emergency functions rather than costlier uniformed officers.
Chief Mark Saunders has said the he is committed to implementing the plan in order to modernize the force.
Responding to the union on Monday, police spokesman Mark Pugash said the service has been attentive to officers as the changes are undertaken.
“Let me be the voice of calm and reason. We’re in the process of transformation. People find change concerning. That’s understandable,” Pugash said. “We’re taking it patiently, we’re taking it carefully and more importantly we’re listening to all our members.
“Chief Saunders has not only visited every unit in the service, in recent weeks he’s increased front-line resources. Doing nothing is not an option.”
He added that while the force is changing the way it operates, public safety will never be compromised.
“We’ve been very open about what we have to do and what we will do,” Pugash said. “Consultation is a huge part of this process and will continue to be a huge part of this process.”
Mayor John Tory has also lauded the transformation plan and said that it will use new technologies to shift some tasks off of officers so that they are able to engage with the public in more meaningful ways.
At roughly $1 billion, the Toronto Police Service remains the single largest line item in the city’s overall budget.