Toronto cops want to walk the lucrative Community Action Policing beat all over again next summer.
In fact, they’d like to make it a year-round thing.
“Now that the communities have got this, well, they’re going to want it all the time,” says 52 Division’s Supt Aidan Maher.
The initiative cost the city $2-million to put extra cops on the street this summer, paying massive overtime to officers who wanted the extra.
But it doesn’t matter that the force is forecasting a $10-million deficit for the year – Maher says taxpayers want CAP-style law enforcement to be permanent.
“If council frees up the money, I could see it going longer,” he says. “We started a little late this year. I think it would be good to start it pretty well at the beginning of summer.
“We would hope for the May 24 weekend. I think the citizens would like it 12 months a year.”
Downtown City Councillor Kyle Rae – who spearheaded the plan – won’t say if that’s financially feasible.
But police board commissioner Olivia Chow says 12 months of CAP would be a big-ticket item.
“That’s $8-million,” she says. “Close to a one percent tax increase.
“If we can deploy officers in the way that would have more of them coming onto the frontline, then we don’t need to do a really expensive thing.
“If you need to do that kind of work, then it should be scheduled in ordinary time. Why should we pay overtime?”
Chow says the merit of the idea has to be debated.
“I think what we need to be clear about it,” she says. “When a couple is in a park talking to each other or holding hands in the middle of the evening, why do you need to go and ask them for ID?
“Or somebody having a snooze on a park bench – what’s wrong with that?”
The 11-week CAP initiative gave police an overtime stipend to crackdown on sex-trade workers, squeegees, panhandlers and the war on drugs.
The program – slated to run out on Sep 30 – came under fire when police refused to name the 20 communities they said were being targeted. Ensuing media reports indicate that CAP actually had its aim on some 40 neighbourhoods.
On the eve of CAP’s implementation, Mayor Mel Lastman revealed that it wouldn’t take so much as a nip out of violent crime. But he did tell a talk-radio audience that “it should be a criminal offence to dispose of a used condom in a city park.”
Since then, scores of gay men report being stopped by police in public parks at night and asked to provide personal information – which is then entered into police data bases.
Maher, however, doesn’t see a problem.
“Are you looking at that as a human rights issue?” he asks.
“This comes up year after year after year – the right of the police to ask people questions. How else do police officers investigate unless we talk to people?”