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More Toronto police officers will patrol TTC stations

Toronto Police planning to double their complement
on the city’s public transit system, to 80 officers by the end of 2010

By Kelly Grant,
City Hall Bureau Chief

When two men, one armed with a handgun, the other with a sledgehammer, smashed their way into a female collector’s booth at Wilson Station on the weekend, the first to respond were officers from Toronto Police’s 32 Division.

Nobody from the force’s new 38-member transit patrol unit - established last May - was there at 12:30 a.m. Saturday when the robbers fled the station near Wilson Avenue and the Allen expressway, police spokesman Mark Pugash said.

By the end of this year, more armed officers will patrol stations like Wilson more often: Toronto police intend to double their complement on the TTC, to 80 officers from 38.

“The powers that Toronto police officers have operate above ground, below ground. There’s no geographic limit to the extent of powers police officers have,” Mr. Pugash said.

Boosting the transit patrol unit by 42 officers, which will cost $1.8-million in 2010, is part of a larger plan to put Toronto police in charge of security and safety on the Toronto Transit Commission.

But that wider plan has hit some snags.

Wrangling over pensions, salaries and working conditions has stalled the planned transfer of the TTC’s special constables to the Toronto police, something the police board and the TTC agreed to in principle last summer, according to minutes of the police board’s June meeting.

Instead, for now at least, TTC special constables - peace officers with the power to arrest, but not to carry firearms - and the police will keep operating separately, with the police force adding transit officers and the TTC subtracting them, just not by the same amount.

The police will add 42 transit patrol officers in 2010 while the TTC reduces its special constable contingent by 21 officers, to 100 from 121. There won’t be layoffs; the TTC will reduce its strength through attrition.

Despite the discrepancy, budget chief Shelley Carroll said the savings on the TTC side this year are the equivalent of the $1.8-million the city is injecting into the Toronto police budget for the transit patrol unit. Some special constable posts were already vacant, she said.

“It was a very difficult thing to work out. Part of the reason that you had 42 on one side and 21 on the other is the fact that at the TTC they were being paid more than what police officers make,” she said.

That’s not accurate across the board, however. The top rate for TTC special constables is $79,310, a ceiling the non-unionized special constables reach after five years. A Toronto police first-class constable’s base salary is a touch higher: $80,315. But second, third and fourth class constables make less, with fourth-class constables earning $56,219 a year.

Ms. Carroll said she began thinking years ago about how public transit should be policed as the TTC’s special constable unit mushroomed into a “shadow force,” doing work better left to uniformed officers and their superiors.

“If you really need that level of policing, shouldn’t it be done by someone whose core business is policing?” she said. “We found ourselves asking a policy question in the middle of [past] budgets, just by exposure to it.”

After the police board and the TTC agreed in principle to the transfer, a working group tried to hammer out the details to complete the deal by January 2010. Instead, by the board’s December meeting, its members had all but surrendered: “Based on the comprehensive analysis, it was determined that costs and conditions, including pensions, salaries and benefits were seriously incongruent,” a report to the police board says, adding that, “the transition of the TTC Special Constables to the TPS … will be more of an evolutionary process.”

Brad Ross, a spokesman for the TTC, characterized the original agreement in principle with the Toronto Police Services Board as one that would help special constables make the transition to full police officers - provided they go to police college and pass all the necessary tests - not a straightforward absorption of the special constable unit by the police. He doesn’t expect that to change.

“It’s too early to say how it’s going to work out here, but no, special constables will not be reporting to TPS,” he said.