POLITICS

Toronto police chief warns of possible layoffs as summer safety push nears end

08/16/2012 09:55 EDT | Updated 10/16/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Just weeks after pledging to send more officers out on the beat, Toronto's police chief is warning cutbacks may whittle away at the force's ranks.

Bill Blair says layoffs may be on the horizon now that the force's budget has been frozen.

The Toronto Police Board has approved the city's proposal to maintain — but not increase — the police budget for next year.

The board also agreed to find more than five per cent in savings after postponing the cuts in the 2012 budget, but only if it can do so without compromising public safety.

The city's budget chief, Mike Del Grande, is calling for a review of the Toronto Police Service to determine just how many officers are needed to keep the city safe.

Police last month announced a plan to temporarily beef up their presence in at-risk neighbourhoods following a spate of deadly public shootings.

The plan involved having officers take on compulsory overtime shifts this month through the first week of September to free up their colleagues to patrol.

Blair estimated rejigging the officers' schedules would draw an extra $2 million from the existing police budget.

The "summer safety iniative" came on the heels of a mass shooting at an east-end block party that stirred fears of gunplay and sparked a public and political debate on preventing violence.

Talks between Blair, Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Dalton McGuinty led the province to pledge $12.5 million in permanent funding for anti-violence programs.

But the mayor's request for up to $10 million from the province to hire extra police wasn't granted.

The city had been hit by two other fatal daytime shootings in the weeks before — one at the Eaton Centre shopping mall and another on a crowded patio in the Little Italy neighbourhood.

(AM640, CFRB, The Canadian Press)