Mayor John Tory wants to create “alternative models of community safety” in response to recent protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism.
At a city hall press conference on Thursday morning, the mayor laid out an 18-point motion, which needs to receive approval from city council next week.
The proposed reforms include the creation of non-police led response teams to calls which do not involve weapons or violence, such as mental-health crisis calls, potential reductions to the police budget and re-investing funds in “critical community and social services.”
The proposal also calls for the collection and analysis of race-based data, asking the province reinstate the recommendations made by Justice Michael Tulloch in his 2017 report on police oversight and equipping all police officers with body cameras by January 2021.
“Here in Toronto and around the world, people have been raising their voices and calling for an end to racism generally, to anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, and to racism against marginalized communities,” Tory said. “As Mayor, I acknowledge that, despite our city being one of the world’s most diverse, systemic racism continues to be a real issue here in Toronto and there is much more all of us can do to confront it and to eliminate it.”
Tory noted that “tens of thousands of Torontonians” have called and emailed his office and the offices of city councillors in the weeks since the Minneapolis police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd that sparked a wave of protests against racism and police violence in May.
Following Floyd’s death, two police-involved deaths in the Greater Toronto Area have fuelled local protests and calls to defund the Toronto police budget.
On May 27, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, 29, was reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis when she fell to her death from the 24th floor of a High Park Avenue apartment. Police were in her unit at the time.
On June 20, officers in Peel Region fatally shot 62-year-old Ejaz Ahmed Choudry in Mississauga. Choudry’s family said he suffered from schizophrenia.
Police watchdog Special Investigations Unit is investigating both deaths.
Tory’s plan does not call for defunding of the police, but rather “detasking” officers from responding to certain cases, such as mental health crisis calls.
During the press conference at city hall, city councillor and former police services board member Michael Thompson noted that he unsuccessfully attempted to enact police budget cuts and the reallocation of funds toward social issues in 2016.
City councillors Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam are putting forward a motion to cut the $1.2 billion police budget by 10 per cent at the next city council meeting on June 29 and 30.
Both were critical of the mayor’s proposed reforms and posted responses on Twitter.
Wong-Tam said the mayor’s motion was an attempt to “sideline” the defunding motion she is cosponsoring with Matlow.
“[Tory] doesn’t cite a % or any budget reduction which is at the core of the movement to reform policing. Mayor now asks TPS board which he’s controlled for 6 years to reform policing. Not good enough,” she wrote.
Matlow noted that the mayor’s proposal to equip officers with body cameras would increase the police budget.
“Rather than add tens of millions more dollars on body cameras, it’s time to begin defunding the massive police budget & reinvest into community supports/policing alternatives to make our neighborhoods safer,” Matlow wrote. “Let’s finally listen to what so many BIPOC are saying.”
Neither Tory nor Matlow and Wong-Tam’s proposals go as far as Black Lives Matter Toronto’s list of demands, which calls on the city to slash the police budget by 50 per cent and use the money to fund housing projects, food security programs, public transit, public health, libraries and community-led anti-violence programs.
The list of 27 demands also includes removing police and school resource officers from schools ending policing of public transit scrapping the Emergency Task Force and Emergency Response Teams an end to carding the decriminalization of drugs, HIV and sex work the establishment of an emergency service for gendered violence a new civilian transportation safety service and a civilian conflict resolution service.
In the past week, mental health hospital Centre for Addiction and Mental Health called for police to stop responding to mental health-related crisis calls, as did a group called Doctors For Defunding the Police.
At his daily Queen’s Park press conference, Premier Doug Ford said he does not support cutting police budgets.
“I just don’t believe in defunding the police. I think it’s a massive, massive error,” he said, adding that he supports increased funding for community outreach and training when it comes to people experiencing a mental health crisis. “I agree there should be better police training for those situations.”