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Toronto police chief says cutting more than $12M from police budget could impact response times

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw says that a proposed $12.6 million cut from the force’s requested budget could slow response times and “imperil” the service’s ability to ensure public safety.

Demkiw made the comment to reporters on Thursday after appearing before Toronto’s budget committee to make his case for additional funding.

Denkiw is asking Mayor Olivia Chow to award the Toronto Police Service its full $1.186 billion budget request for 2024.

City staff had previously shaved $12.6 million off that request as part of the proposed budget that was tabled for the first time earlier this month.

It was among $600 million in spending cuts and savings in Toronto’s budget.

“They (Torontonians) will see a continued degradation in police service response (if the budget goes through),” Demkiw warned on Thursday. “We’re presently at over 22 minutes in responding to priority one calls in the city, which really, to humanize this a little bit, is when people call us in the most grave of circumstances where they’re fearing significant harm or imminent injury. It’s taking us, on average, now, over 22 minutes (to respond). Over time, we will see a continued degradation in that capacity.”

Under the staff-proposed budget, the Toronto Police Service would still see its funding levels rise by approximately $8 million when compared to 2023.

But Demkiw said that the TPS needs the full $20 million increase to continue to fill vacancies and ensure adequate staffing across the city.

He said that slashing the force’s budget would create an “unacceptable risk” to public safety, including the ability of officers to “proactively patrol the city.”

“The reality is over the long-term this impacts our ability to staff critical vacancies such as certain specialized functions and investigative functions. So the ripple effect from whatever decisions are made here are very, very serious,” he said.

The police service’s requested budget would have allowed for 306 net new officers to be deployed by the end of the year, pushing the total uniformed complement up to 5,433.

Demkiw suggested that cutting the requested budget will directly impact the ability of the TPS to follow through with that hiring plan.

However, Budget Chief Shelly Carroll disputed that point while speaking with reporters later in the day.

She said that even if the TPS is not able to find any other savings, the proposed budget would still allow for the hiring of 200 new officers.

“We do know that the force needs more support on the ground. What we’re arguing about is our ability to pay and how fast we can do it,” she said.

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