The Toronto police board needs to speed up giving beat officers new reporting apps, consultant says – Toronto

It’s been nearly six months since the Toronto Police Services Board adopted 34 recommendations from a task force that promised to swiftly modernize how the city’s 5,100 sworn officers do their jobs.

But both the police union and management are not moving quickly enough on those changes, a public policy consultant contends.

Among the most critical of the recommendations is to have police file reports from the field using a tablet or smartphone, Brian Kelcey said — a program that officers in San Francisco rolled out with Samsung over a period of several months starting in 2013.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has been meeting with officers to discuss the incoming changes aimed at modernizing the force. (John Rieti/CBC)

Filing reports with smartphones

Officers there now report spending an average of 40 per cent more time on their beats, Kelcey said. He attributes the shift to savings on travel time to detachments to fill out paperwork and to the app’s efficiency compared to writing paper reports.

The issue in Toronto, however, is that the task force prioritized those measures that are expected to trim the $1 billion police budget rather than the investments in smartphones, policing apps and other technology.

And all of the recommendations won’t come into effect until 2019 — a timeline that Kelcey said seems far longer than needed.

“I don’t know what else to blame other than the conservative culture that we’ve got in this building here with police management and with police officers themselves who need to catch up, quite frankly, to police forces in other cities.”  

The issues

The Toronto Police Association, the union that represnts the city’s police officers, had been largely resistant to the creation of the task force and its subsequent recommendations.

They have raised particular concerns about the suggested cuts to sworn officers — 400 fewer by 2019, according to the union — and the suggestion that civilians could take over dealing with non-violent mental health crises, bylaw infractions, and certain administrative tasks.

Those two measures would contribute to the anticipated $100-million in savings promised by the adoption of all of the recommendations.

Police union president Mike McCormack told CBC Toronto that if police brass and the board do cut the force’s ranks, the remaining officers need the tools suggested in the report to do their jobs.

Union executives, however, are still calling for delays in implementing the recommendations until they meet with management.

During the last few months, Chief Mark Saunders has been visiting all of the detachments to answers questions and hear the concerns of his officers about the changes, according to a spokesperson with the police service. 

Mark Pugash said it’s unrealistic to expect that all of the changes could be implemented more quickly. 

“This is a process that takes some time,” he said. “You don’t turn around organizations of 8,000 people overnight.” 

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