Ontario Premier Doug Ford said defunding the police is a “massive error” and there should be an increase in funding to help officers with community outreach and mental health calls.
His response comes after Mayor John Tory revealed a list of proposed policing reforms Thursday morning as part of a motion he will take to council next week.
Tory’s recommendations do not call for defunding the service, but instead favours the idea of reallocating resources rather than slashing the budget.
“First of all, I don’t believe in defunding the police. I believe it is a massive error,” Ford said during his press conference on Thursday.
“I believe in funding them with more resources for mental health issues. We just gave the police additional money for crime, guns, and gangs in other areas.
“When you call 9-1-1 and we’re short 100 police officers — you got to be kidding me. Instead, let’s increase funding for areas of community outreach.”
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He said that he believes Toronto is looking to cut $100 million in the police budget, which he does “not understand.”
“In downtown, there might be three or four cars in all of downtown, do you want that? I don’t want that. When you make a call you expect the police to be there ASAP.”
While Ford noted that police may not be properly equipped to tackle situations relating to mental health, he thinks more funding should be given so they have better training and be accompanied by experts.
However, if it means reallocating funds by cutting the number of police officers out on the streets, Ford says he cannot endorse it.
“You just don’t cut frontline police officers and that’s what will end up happening,” Ford said.
Tory’s motion calls for increased funding for programs that support Toronto’s Indigenous, Black, and marginalized communities, as well as others that provide mental health supports.
And, to detail the likely reductions to the Toronto Police Services budget that would result from these changes.
“In recent weeks, here in Toronto and around the world, people have been raising their voices and calling for an end to racism generally, to anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, and to racism against marginalized communities,” the motion says.
“We must fix that model by changing the way policing is done in order to stamp out systemic racism within our police service and to rethink, in some cases, whether police are the right community response at all.”
On June 8, two Toronto city councillors put forward a motion on reducing the police budget by 10%, which will be addressed in the council’s meetings on June 29 and 30.
The motion, written by Josh Matlow and seconded Kristyn Wong-Tam, intends to change the police budget through an amendment to the provincial Police Services Act.
This would allow for the City of Toronto to have direct oversight over the Toronto Police Services — it currently does not have any direct control of the police budget.
Ford added that he would be willing to have discussion on whether municipal governments can have more oversight of their police department.