Why shouldn’t the police who patrol our neighbourhoods live where we do, or at least in the same communities?
And, why do our police officers ‘cocoon’ in their cars, isolating themselves further from the people they “serve and protect”.
This has been on our radar for decades, but it’s recently come to the front burner in the United States where tensions between police and racial groups draws attention to the demographic composition of police departments across the country.
Now, the Toronto Star’s Betsy Powell brings this issue home with, “Many new cops don’t live in Toronto”, from the paper’s Friday, February 12 edition. And, there is no difference in Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and other Canadian cities.
Peter Sloly, a former Toronto deputy chief, estimated that 80 to 85 per cent of Toronto’s cops don’t live in the city. Only 21 of 44 recent recruits call Toronto home. Police union leaders claim Toronto is too expensive for many on the force, but this argument ignores that today’s police earn a lot more than the average Torontonian.
“I think you can be committed to a neighbourhood, committed to community safety, do your job, and sleep somewhere else,” is how former Toronto police chief Bill Blair defended an out-of-town workforce.
But, Mariana Valverde, a criminologist at the University of Toronto disagrees. “Where you live and what you think of a good place to live, does have a bearing on how you do your job as a police officer. We care more about people who live like us…..it’s basic psychology.” She believes this should be included in the debate around police reform and our perspective for controlling the force’s $1-billion budget.
A tempest in a teapot? How many teapots make a cyclone?