‘Extraordinary’ homicide cases push Toronto police budget into deficit

 thestar.com  5/17/2018 11:00:00 PM 

Resource-intensive investigations including the probe into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur have pushed the Toronto Police Service into a financial deficit, but the service is expected to balance the budget by year’s end.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s police board meeting, Toronto police chief administrative officer Tony Veneziano estimated that nearly $1 million has been spent on “premium pay” due to what he called “extraordinary” homicide cases. That includes the McArthur investigation, as well as the ongoing investigation into the deaths of billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman and last month’s van rampage in North York.

Toronto police have called the ongoing forensic examination into the alleged McArthur killings the largest in its history.
Toronto police have called the ongoing forensic examination into the alleged McArthur killings the largest in its history.  (Randy Risling / Toronto Star File Photo)

Premium pay — doled out when officers work overtime or are called back on days off — has been necessary due to the high-profile cases in combination with a higher-than-expected number of officer retirements or transfers.

“We’ve lost a lot more officers than we’ve anticipated, so there’s work to be done and we call back people on overtime to do that work,” Veneziano told reporters. “What’s offset that, though, is we’ve lost a lot more people so we are saving money in that regard, so the actual deficit isn’t as large as it might have been.”

So far this year, 170 officers have departed from the Toronto police, and at least 30 more are expected by year’s end. Last summer, in response to a heightened number of staff departures, the board lifted what was supposed to have been a three-year hiring freeze and 140 new recruits have since been brought on.

“Hopefully that will help alleviate some of the pressure on premium pay,” Veneziano said.

In a recent report to the board, Toronto police chief Mark Saunders provided details on expenditures and revenues within the force’s $996.3-million budget for 2018. The chief said that, based on current spending, there is an estimated $3.8-million shortfall.

However, Veneziano said the service is developing a plan to come in on budget by year’s end, in part by cutting back on premium pay once the newly hired officers hit the streets.

“But we have a responsibility to our board and the city that are sure of what our position is at this point in time and that’s what we’re reporting now,” he said.

Toronto police have called the ongoing forensic examination into the alleged McArthur killings the largest in its history. Police are still probing the Sherman homicides, and last month’s van rampage by alleged serial killer Alek Minassian prompted yet another large-scale investigation by the Toronto homicide squad.

Wendy Gillis can be reached at wgillis@thestar.ca

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