The idea of police concentrating on core assignments and moving other tasks to the private sector (security industry) is nothing new. However, in the last two years, the topic has gained more interest to reduce the growth in budgets.
As police salaries have continually increased over the past decade, the Liberal government now has to face the unenviable task of telling public servants to hold the line. Police are one of the biggest costs for municipal taxpayers and it just keeps growing. This is also the case for provincial police (OPP), but small municipalities are hit the hardest because they do not have a large commercial and industrial tax base to rely on.
One solution is to contract out non-core police duties to security firms. Police officers that make the ‘sunshine list’ are taking routine reports, acting as receptionists at police stations, giving parking tickets and doing the work of administrative assistants. Well-trained security staff can perform these types of duties for less than half the cost. There is no logic in having a police officer directing traffic around a construction site. The security industry does not want to replace police officers, but simply to play a role fulfilling the routine work that doesn’t require police training. With today’s ongoing threats of terrorism, the police service has more important tasks to concentrate on.
Toronto is seriously looking into this issue. In June of this year, an interim report was published “The Way Forward: Modernizing Community Safety in Toronto”. Although the report centres around improving the quality of service, it also recognizes the need for cost reduction and changing primary tasks. The report contains 24 interim recommendations and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Various proposals may lead to some police tasks, such as paid duty, shifting to the security industry. The current process of paid duty is not well understood and often puts the reputation of the Toronto Police service at risk. The final report will include working with a risk assessment model to ensure off-duty police officers are only used in a paid duty capacity where their skills, authority, and training are necessary.
We will follow these developments closely.