Drivers have seen it for years; the steady decline in courtesy and good driving on our roads. Pedestrians and cyclists have noticed it too – yes, sometimes from our fellow pedestrians and cyclists. We’re at the stage now where drivers routinely blow through stale yellow and even red lights. People who think their time is more important than everyone else’s safety weave in and out, cutting people off and travelling at dangerous speeds. Many vehicle plates are covered with dark plastic to avoid detection and window glass is tinted far beyond legal limits. Police officers on our streets are a rare sight – unless on paid duty at a construction or road work site. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage going on there.
Despite the wild west type driving experiences of recent years and the increasing number of deaths and injuries on our roads, there has been a steep decline in the number of traffic violations in our city. Police issued 140,000 fewer tickets in 2019 than they did in 2009. Careless driving charges dropped by 44%.
Are the police focussing their efforts elsewhere? It doesn’t look like it. The City’s homicide rate rose from 2.1 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 3.1 in 2018. Our murder rate was higher in 2018 than that of New York City.
So what’s going on? We have 5400 uniform and non-uniform police officers in Toronto – where are they all? How do they spend their time? If they’re not on the roads, where else could they be? Since tickets are down, they can’t all be in court or doing paperwork. They also respond to fewer types of complaints. Noise issues for example now go to a city by-law department.
Is it a morale problem? Are police having a giant snit because their numbers are down? Why is Mayor Tory not doing something? The failure of Vision Zero was not properly addressed and a name change to Vision Zero 2.0 was seen as the answer. What about Chief Saunders? The whole point of a police force is to protect lives and property by enforcing the law. Effective policing acts as a deterrent to further criminal behaviour. Visibility is part of that deterrence aspect.
In the U.K. beefed up road policing is seen to be effective in combatting other crimes. After all, criminals use the roads and they’re often driving badly. More enforcement on our roads would uncover more criminal behaviour.
In the meantime, we need answers from Mayor Tory and Chief Saunders. The solution belongs with them but neither one seem to be owning the problem.
As controversy builds around the appointment of local police Superintendent Ron Taverner (and friend of the Premier) as head of the OPP, the Toronto Star (via the paywall free ourwindsor.ca) has found that Mr Taverner purchased a home in Weston in July 2017. The deal was private with $550,000 changing hands for the home near Church and George.
The problem? The seller, Simone Daniels worked for the Ford family business, Deco Labels, and is currently employed as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Premier.
In related news, the Globe and Mail reports that when Doug Ford was a Toronto councillor, he suggested to former Police Services Board Chair, Alok Mukherjee that his longtime friend would make a good Toronto Deputy Police Chief (Taverner did not apply for the job and was not appointed).
Rightly or wrongly, this steady drip of negative stories adds to the perception of strong connections between Doug Ford and Ron Taverner and a possible conflict of interest.
It will take great deal of determination to stare down this kind of pressure. My guess is that Mr Taverner (who has not commented publicly on the current brouhaha) may decide that the job isn’t worth the bother, plus, he’ll probably not want to begin his new job under a cloud that will likely persist during his term of office.
Update: We’ve removed the picture, because that seems like the right thing to do.
Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, currently in charge of 12, 23 and 31 Divisions (the north-west corner of the city that includes Weston and Mount Dennis) is heading for a new job on December 17. He has been appointed Commissioner of the 9000 member Ontario Provincial Police. According to Ontario’s Newsroom site, his appointment is “based on the unanimous recommendation of a selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson, an executive search firm.”.
Superintendent Taverner’s career with Toronto Police began in 1967 and there are many supportive and glowing testimonials in reaction to his appointment. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Police Association President Mike McCormack (among others) welcomed the news and think that the appointment is a good one.
There is at least one dissenting voice. Former OPP Commissioner (2010 – 2014), Chris Lewis says he is shocked. In an interview with CTV News, Lewis says says things like, “The appointment is a real kick to the OPP – someone from the outside with very limited experience.”, “The fix was in from the outset.” (Taverner is a friend of the Ford family).
Who will replace Taverner? Let’s hope it’s someone who can solve some of the problems that have frustrated the current incumbent and stubbornly resisted a solution over the past few years.
Toronto Police are now in the process of hiring 150 students between the ages of 14 and 17 for a summer job experience known as the Youth In Policing Initiative. The idea is to give students a week of training, followed by an opportunity to experience an aspect of a wide variety of work environments. Students will be assigned to such areas as the Police Mounted Unit, Court Services and Forensic Identification Services to name a few. Young people will be exposed to the work environment through a motivating and enjoyable format. Interested youth should be legally able to work in Canada and intend to return to school in September.
For more detail explore the YIPI site here or contact the Youth in Policing Initiative Program Coordinator at 416-808-7618. Updated deadline: Friday March 2nd.