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Toronto looks for ways to reduce security costs for Pan Am Games
June 14, 2015
By Selana Ross

The Pan American Games will rack up police overtime; the question is how much.

With years to prepare, and examples from other cities to look to, organizers have dreamed up ways to leave Toronto police officers free to staff the event. That includes shutting down the city’s police college and certain courtrooms for all of July, as well as nearly halving the amount of vacation officers can take that month.

Those measures will limit costs to the province, which is responsible for paying officers’ overtime. But they will also be a test of success for streamlining police costs, if Toronto or other major cities hope to host big events more often.

“One of the most expensive things at these types of international events now is security,” said Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Queens University and the Royal Military College who has written extensively on the costs of policing.

Some overtime is inevitable, he said. But he will be looking to see, after the Games, how real costs stacked up against the province’s $239-million security budget.

“If Canada and Toronto want to be competitive in bids for these types of large events, they will need to find efficiencies,” he said. “This is all plan-able and manageable.”

Ontario Provincial Police and thousands of private security staff will work with municipal police, including Toronto’s, at the Pan Am and Parapan Games, which will last 26 days in total. Of the amount the province plans to spend, $101.5-million is slated to cover various municipal police services, $81-million for contracted private security and $57-million for the OPP, according to an Auditor-General’s report on those costs from last fall. The Games’ organizers have budgeted an additional $8-million for security.

Toronto municipal police are budgeted for $72.7-million, overtime included, said Toronto Police Staff Sergeant Devin Kealey, a community liaison for the Games. However, those are estimates, and staffing will depend on attendance, weather and other factors, he said.

“In those instances where we do need to use on-duty resources, every effort is being made to take these resources from non-front-line units,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Closing down the Toronto Police College for July means more on-duty staff available for the Games, he said. Closing the three Provincial Offences courts in Toronto - municipally run courts that handle non-criminal matters such as traffic tickets - means officers won’t need to appear there.

The court closures won’t likely be a major inconvenience, said Leonard Smart, a former officer who now works as a paralegal, often handling traffic tickets. While the Provincial Offences courts once had a backlog that created roughly a year-long wait, he said, tickets now result in trial in only a few months.

The amount of leave available for Toronto officers in July has also been cut from 10 per cent to 6 per cent of the force’s manpower. That measure wasn’t popular with all officers, but it’s no surprise, as vacations were settled last fall, said Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack.

“From an association perspective, we worked it out with the service and that was a reasonable compromise to make sure we had the appropriate staffing for Pan Am,” he said.

Mr. McCormack said he expects staffing needs for the Games to be similar to what was planned ahead of the G20 in 2010, though the Games are seen as a lower-risk security event. The G20, with unplanned surges of extra officers, ended up costing the federal government more than $676-million, including $144-million to Toronto police.

In March, then-police chief Bill Blair said the demands on Toronto police at the Pan Am Games will be heavy, involving tens of thousands of extra hours, “far more hours than, frankly, would ever be involved in paid duty assignments.”

Bigger savings will only come from major restructuring, similar to what other countries and jurisdictions do, Prof. Leuprecht said.

“We’re going to have people who get paid $100,000 a year basically standing around and looking pretty - jobs that special constables in Quebec do for half the money,” he said. “Much of this is about having a visibility, right? For that, all we need is a couple of guys with walkie-talkies on every corner,” with highly trained officers available for emergencies.