Saturday May 15, 1999

John Duncanson and Jim Rankin

p. A1.

Toronto police board plans shakeup

Proposals calls for fewer deputies, promotion freeze

The Toronto police services board plans a major shakeup of the force that would cut as many as three deputy chiefs and strip it of some hiring responsibilities.

In the wake of last week's announcement that Chief David Boothby will be stepping down next year, board members quietly met Thursday night to discuss what they see as years of chronic management problems and questionable promotion practices.

They discussed plans to revamp the structure of senior command, including cutting as many as three deputy chief positions from the present six, sources have told The Star.

They talked about placing a freeze on promotions, after criticism the process has left the force with many underqualified managers.

The board also discussed stripping from the force the responsibility of hiring civilian managers and personnel — about one-third of its 7,000 members — and turning it over to the city.

The force's human resources department currently falls under the control of the force's executive support command.

The board has approached the city's top administrators, Michael Garrett, to discuss the possibility of the city taking over the hiring.

It is also looking at bringing in an outside consultant to study the command structure. "Quite frankly, the human resources wing of the force is dead in the water," said one source.

Board chair Norm Gardner, who has hinted in the past about shaking up senior command, acknowledged board members met quietly Thursday, but was reluctant to give details.

Police board plans major changes to force

It was not the board's regular monthly meeting, Gardner, also a city councillor, said the members "did some philosophizing about some of the things they would like to see in future projects."

Talk of a massive shakeup comes just nine days after Boothby announced his plans to retire in February.

Gardner said the fact the board is meeting and discussing changes now is no coincidence. "The timing on some of these things wasn't appropriate until now."

"With the chief leaving and a search for a new chief, we wanted the opportunity to look at the relevance of the structure and whether or not there should be some changes. The thing is that before, it was like moving a mountain. Now, you see, we've had an earthquake and it's a little easier to move," Gardner said in a veiled reference to Boothby's announcement.

The board's strategy meeting also comes as the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services puts the finishing touches on an investigation report into an unprecedented police union complaint that the force's senior command was mismanaging the force and unfair when meting out discipline.

Boothby who has headed the force for the past four years, was out of the country and not available for comment yesterday.

"You can't blame a decade of downsizing and sniping on just one man," one high-ranking police officer said of Boothby.

"This police force is just like a once proud battleship that keeps getting hit and hit and hit, and Boothby found himself in the captain's chair at the worst time," the officer said.

The roots of many of the problems the board is now addressing predate Boothby's leadership, going back to the early '90s, when a flood of senior officers took a sweetened early-retirement package.

That left a void that was quickly filled by many underqualified officers, said another senior officer.

"Fifty people wrote (a promotion test), 48 passed. Those are our senior managers. So, basically, you haven't got the best, you have the ones who stayed. They don't have the skill set."

Councillor Olivia Chow, who is replacing departing police board member Councillor Sherene Shaw, was also at the Thursday meeting. Chow, who has been pushing for years for greater fiscal and managerial accountability from the force, said this is a great opportunity to make that happen.

"I hope it will be done well and that we will really see some clear structure, which will make policing in Toronto stronger and more effective. I know it will really boost morale in the front lines," she said.

Chow said the task of reviewing the command structure, the promotional system, and the hiring of civilian managers would be too much work for the board, which only meets once a month.

"Whether it's done by city of Toronto staff or an outside firm, I don't think it should be done internally," she said, adding: "We have six deputy chiefs, maybe that's too many."

The board also discussed placing a freeze on promotions, one source said.

There has been harsh criticism recently of multiple-choice tests used in the promotional process.

One officer said some of the test questions in a recent test for promotion to the inspector level were absurd, had no relevance to determining leadership and management skills and ended up weeding out some of the best talent.

"It is foul. It should be derailed. It is an obscenity," the officer said of the test.

Gardner acknowledged there have been a lot of complaints surrounding the tests. "There are a lot of complaints about the promotional process… We talked about it, but I've got to get the board's approval to make any moves in that direction.

"What I've been told has had a lot of trivia attached to it. But there's got to be some questions asked as to, you know, who set the exam, the validity of the exam, the credentials of the people setting the exam.

"At the moment, (the promotion process) is still going forward," said Gardner.

Board member Jeff Lyons felt it was inappropriate to comment on what was discussed at the 3 1/2-hour meeting since it was supposed to be secret and confidential. "If they're going to have secret meetings, then why talk about it?"

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 9, 2000
Last modified: October 9, 2000
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