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Toronto police suspensions have cost taxpayers $1.3M so far in 2024

Toronto taxpayers have spent roughly $1.3 million dollars so far in 2024 to pay the salaries of 31 suspended Toronto police officers, according to an exclusive database compiled by CBC News that surveyed reports about hundreds of Ontario police officers who were sent home with pay after being accused of misconduct or breaking the law.

The investigation collected publicly available information about officers across 44 police departments, including the Toronto Police Service. 

The Toronto police suspensions are related to a wide variety of allegations including gender-based violence, impaired driving, fraud, racial discrimination and drugs charges. The majority of officers were criminally charged. 

CBC News’s data reveals that, between January 2013 and April 2024, 119 officers working for the Toronto Police Service were suspended a total of 130 times — some more than once. All were paid at their full salary, amounting to a total bill of $31 million dollars for taxpayers.

As of April 9, at least 31 Toronto police officers are still suspended, 69 went back to work, 12 resigned, five were fired, and three retired. CBC News was not able to determine the outcome of the remaining five.

The majority of officers were paid to stay home for nearly a year, but four were suspended with pay for more than seven years.

‘Ridiculous,’ says former police officer turned politician

The data was based on publicly available information, compiled and verified through multiple news sources, police and Special Investigations Unit news releases as well as court and disciplinary records. Toronto Police Service said it has on average 30 suspensions a year, so there could be more paid suspensions than accounted for in the figures.

Jon Burnside, a city councillor who sits on the Toronto Police Services Board, said the public seeing someone accused of a serious crime while off-duty receiving public money for years erodes trust.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Burnside, a Toronto Police officer himself for about a decade prior to entering political life.”When somebody is sitting on their rear end watching TV for seven years, it just really affects people’s perception of the police and that makes it harder for everyone.”

Coun. Jon Burnside, a former police officer, says it’s ‘ridiculous’ that taxpayers have been paying millions of dollars for officers who are charged with serious offences to stay home. (CBC News)

“Police have special authority, special powers, and they depend on the confidence that people have in them and in the system and this really detracts from that,” he said.

CBC Toronto reached out to Toronto advocates, academics, politicians and those in leadership roles within police bodies to comment on the findings. Most who agreed to speak said they were supportive of any measure that could take away the pay of officers while suspended. But while recent legislation can take away the pay of officers while suspended under limited situations, many said the situations are too limited to significantly improve public trust and accountability. 

Suspensions lasting hundreds of days

The Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto police reported the highest number of suspensions in the province between 2013 and 2024, but they’re also the largest forces with 5,993 and 5,100 sworn officers respectively.

Suspended officers are a minority. Less than three per cent of the Toronto police force has faced suspensions in the last decade.

Three of the 10 officers who were suspended the longest over the past decade worked for the Toronto Police department. They are Const.Ioan-Florin Floria, Const. Leslie Nyznik and Const. Sameer Kara, who were all suspended with pay for more than seven years.

Const. Kara and Nyznik were suspended for years before they were acquitted in a high-profile gang sexual assault criminal trial in 2021. They both came back to work after being paid, respectively, $1.03 million and $1.1 million. Kara, who has been suspended three times, is currently suspended for another charge, costing another $251,115.70 as of April 9.

Floria was fired after a 2,785-day suspension during which he was paid over a million dollar. According to earlier CBC News coverage, Floria’s earliest suspension was in 2007, when he was accused by his employer of blocking a kidnapping investigation and using his position to aid a criminal organization.

The average length of suspensions with pay within the Toronto Police force is shorter than the provincial average, 549 days compared to the provincial average of 675 days. 

New legislation makes suspension without pay possible

Until now,  police chiefs in Ontario have been able to suspend their police officers with pay if they’re suspected of violating a code of conduct or breaking the law.

Ontario’s new Community Safety and Policing Act, implemented on April 1, now allows chiefs to suspend officers without pay, but only under specific circumstances. 

It only applies to accusations of a serious, indictable offence committed while the officer was off duty, such as murder or aggravated sexual assault. And every decision to suspend an officer without pay would first go before an adjudicator.

Anna Willats, a founding member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition (TPAC), which describes itself as a non-partisan group of residents encouraging debate about police accountability, says the change is a positive one but wants to see chiefs have more discretion to go further to consider more kinds of misconduct.

She says, unlike Alberta where officers can be suspended without pay and only receive back-pay if found not to be in the wrong, Toronto officers have an incentive to try and extend a process in any way they can.

“For those officers, especially those that are facing conviction that will be found, eventually, to be guilty of whatever it is that they’re accused of, there is an incentive to drag it out,” she said.

Act responds to calls for more flexibility: province

CBC Toronto asked the Ministry of the Solicitor General to respond to concerns the new act offered powers that were too limited.

Spokesperson Brent Ross said in a statement that the act “provides chiefs of police with increased flexibility to pursue suspension without pay in a wide range of circumstances, not limited only to when an officer is convicted of an offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, as was previously required under the Police Services Act.”

He says the act responds well to calls by increased flexibility in the application of suspension without pay. 

Patrick Watson, a University of Toronto criminology professor specializing in police oversight, says more transparency around suspensions is as important as changes to the pay issue.
Patrick Watson, a University of Toronto criminology professor specializing in police oversight, says more transparency around suspensions is as important as changes to the pay issue. (Submitted by Patrick Watson)

Patrick Watson, a University of Toronto criminology and sociolegal professor specializing in police service accountability, says more transparency around suspensions is as important as changes to the pay issue.

He says a public airing of the types of allegations and how they are being resolved is the important next step taxpayers deserve. 

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Watson. 

In compiling this database, CBC News found that most police departments do not systematically publish information on suspended officers and, when they did, the notices were only archived for a few months. Currently no agency or government office tracks or makes public the total number of suspensions in the province.

CBC Toronto asked Toronto Police to clarify if there is a set process indicating how information about suspensions and resolutions is made public, but they did not respond by our deadline.

Over the course of this investigation, CBC News found that Toronto Police did not have a searchable database and said several questions would require a freedom of information request or that records were not available. 

For now, Watson says he will be watching for any test cases to begin to pop up across the province that involve suspending an officer without pay.

New rules don’t go far enough: police chiefs association

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police say they don’t think the new legislative tool goes far enough, their executive director Jeff McGuire calling it “a small step”.

“There still will be, in my view, a number of police officers that are on suspension with pay that the chiefs don’t feel is appropriate, and I gather a lot of the public won’t feel is appropriate either,” he said.

CBC Toronto asked Toronto Police Service Chief Myron Demkiew to comment. He was not available before deadline.

TPS spokesperson Stephanie Sayer, not weighing in on the strength or weakness of the legislation, said that the act only allows for the ability to suspend a member without pay in “very rare circumstances.”

At least one Toronto police officer has already been suspended with pay since the new rules kicked in on April 1 2024 after being arrested and charged with firearms related offences.

Jon Reid, president of the Toronto Police Association which represents police officers, said in a statement, “Our members, like everyone, are entitled to a presumption of innocence and due process when they face allegations of misconduct or criminal behaviour.” 

He says the association will be looking to ensure the new guidelines in the legislation are applied appropriately, noting that chiefs can also re-assign a member to a non-public facing role.

Still, Burnside says even with the new rules, many off-duty offences would still only allow for suspension with pay — something he says needs to be addressed through further legislative change. 

He says as a taxpayer, he hopes the situation will get “cleaned up quickly”.

“Save the $31 million dollars and put that into proper policing.”

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