Toronto police to shrink number of gun and gang officers due to ‘realignment’
Kayla Goodfield, CP24.com
Published Thursday, September 27, 2018 11:11PM EDT
The number of Toronto Police Service gun and gang task force and drug squad members is shrinking due to staff “realignment.”
Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray told CP24 in an email on Thursday night that the reductions come as some officers are being “realigned” to “effectively continue the work they have been doing.”
“The units alone are responsible for more than 625 arrests, 160 gun seizures, hundreds of search warrants and almost half a million grams in illicit drugs,” Gray said. “But the fact remains, like other areas of the service, these units have seen a reduction in numbers as members retire, resign and move around to other units.”
“In order to ensure the work of these units continues as efficiently as possible, the teams will be reorganized.”
Gray would not specify the numbers but The Globe and Mail reported on Thursday night, citing police sources, that the current number of drug teams would be cut from six to four and the number of gun and gang units would go down from six to four as well. Each one of these teams is made up of six or seven officers.
The reduction comes as the provincial government promised millions of dollars in funding in an effort to combat a recent spike in gun violence throughout the city of Toronto.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative government has committed $25 million over five years to help address the issue. The province has asked the municipal and federal government to match this funding as well.
Speaking with CP24 on Thursday night, John Tory reiterated his plans to match the provincial government’s funding if re-elected as mayor on Oct. 22.
“In light of the fact that we have a serious challenge in front of us right now, in light of the fact that the provincial government and the city have both put up additional resources to help fight gangs and guns and drugs, I think that we should certainly not be reducing the allocation of people to that task and so I’ll be looking for some explanations,” Tory said.
Tory added he intends to address this matter at a Toronto Police Service board meeting on Friday.
“I’m not happy about it quite frankly because we have a challenge in front of us right now – a serious challenge – and we have money, extra money that has come from the government of Ontario and extra money that the city itself has put in and so I’m going to be looking for some explanation at the police service board meeting on Friday because I think these units should have all the resources they need to fight something that is as serious as community safety in our city.”
Tory previously said that city council has made an urgent plea to the federal government to ban the sale and possession of handguns in the city while considering tougher sentencing and bail requirements for gun offenders.
Back in July, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Tory made an announcement that 200 additional front-line officers would be deployed during the nighttime and early-morning hours this summer, ending after an eight-week period. Later in August, Tory announced 200 new police officers will also be hired or be enrolled in the training program by the end of this year.
There have been 81 homicides so far this year compared to 66 in 2017.