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Make TTC Special Constables full police officers

Toronto Sun

10 January 2017

Mayor John Tory recently asked Premier Kathleen Wynne to grant officers with the TTC Transit Enforcement Unit the power to direct traffic and tag and tow vehicles disrupting transit routes.  I support this idea, but that’s not the only discussion we should be having.

Maybe it’s time the TTC special constables were given full police status, including having firearms.  There is really no reason not to grant them full status and lots of reasons to do so.

TTC special constables are already peace officers and as such, have the authority of a police officer on or in relation to TTC property, including buses and streetcars. Accordingly, they are expected to act as professionally as any police officer, despite the public perception that they are just “rent-a-cops”. They dress in police uniforms, have batons and pepper spray and function more as transit police than just security officers.

By granting them full police status, they would be able to perform any duty that a police officer would, including the traffic issues Mayor Torry wants addressed.

The fact that they are special constables was cited as the reason their overseeing agency, the Toronto Police Services Board, revoked their special constable status from June 2009 until it was restored in October 2013.

The main reason that lead to this decision was the fact that the TTC officers weren’t armed, which limited their ability to respond in situations where a firearm was involved, along with concerns of overstepping their authority and a lack of civilian oversight.

Unlike police officers, special constables are not governed by the Police Services Act of Ontario, except in relation to the appointment and revocation of their status, and are only accountable to the parent police services board that appointed them.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and the Special Investigation Unit, all regulatory, investigative bodies overseeing policing in Ontario, do not have the authority to directly investigate the actions of special constables.

By granting TTC officers full police status, it would take care of both the training and accountability issues often feared by critics.  TTC officers would have to be trained to the same standard as any other police officer in Ontario, including in the use of firearms.

Fully sworn transit officers aren’t a new thing in Canada.  The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority made their transit officers full police officers in 2005.

Those who don’t want TTC officers to have full status frequently say that the TTC can just call Toronto Police when they have serious trouble. Well Toronto Police officers are not always near TTC property or know it as well as the TTC officers do now.

With the transit plans that Mayor Torry has for the city, the need for proper transit enforcement is going to be greater than ever.

Toronto Police and the Toronto Transit Commission need to acknowledge this is the best option when it comes to policing the transit system in Toronto.

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The above article was edited for space limitations.  Below is the unedited version of the article:

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently asked Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to grant officers with the Toronto Transit Commission Transit Enforcement Unit the power to direct traffic and tag and tow vehicles disrupting transit routes.  I support this idea, but that’s not the only discussion we should be having.

Maybe it’s high time the Toronto Transit Commission special constables were given full police status, including having firearms. There is really no reason not to grant them full status and lots of reasons to do so.

TTC special constables are already peace officers and as such, have the authority of a police officer on or in relation to TTC property, including buses and streetcars. Accordingly, they are expected to act as professionally as any police officer, despite the public perception that they are just “rent-a-cops”. They dress in police uniforms, have batons and pepper spray and function more as transit police than just security officers.

By granting them full police status, they would be able to perform any duty that a police officer would, including the traffic issues Mayor Torry wants addressed.

The TTC Transit Enforcement Unit already functions as a “specialized” police service.  Why not just acknowledge that fact?

The fact that they are special constables was cited as the reason their overseeing agency, the Toronto Police Services Board, revoked their special constable status from June 2009 until it was restored in October 2013.

The main reason that lead to this decision was the fact that the TTC officers weren’t armed, which limited their ability to respond in situations where a firearm was involved, along with concerns of overstepping their authority and a lack of civilian oversight.

Unlike police officers, special constables are not governed by the Police Services Act of Ontario, except in relation to the appointment and revocation of their status, and are only accountable to the parent police services board that appointed them.  Thus, they are pretty much unregulated in this regard.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and the Special Investigation Unit, all regulatory, investigative bodies overseeing policing in Ontario, do not have the authority to directly investigate the actions of special constables.

By granting TTC officers full police status, it would take care of both the training and accountability issues that opponents use in their arguments against granting full status.  TTC officers would have to be trained to the same standard as any other police officer in Ontario, including in the use of firearms.

There are many out there who don’t want to see any other law enforcement agencies have firearms besides police officers, completely ignoring the fact that Conservation Officers, Fisheries Officers and federal Correctional  officers are also armed and have been so for years.  Prior to 2006, Canadian Border Services officers were not issued firearms.  Changing world conditions changed that, as did the firearms issue for House of Commons and Senate special constables, who were quietly issued firearms after the 2014 terrorist attack on Parliament Hill.

Fully sworn transit officers aren’t a new thing in Canada.  The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority made their transit officers full police officers in 2005.

Those who don’t want TTC officers to have full status frequently say that the TTC can just call Toronto Police when they have serious trouble. Well Toronto Police officers are not always near TTC property or know it as well as the TTC officers do now.

With the transit plans that Mayor Torry has for the city, the need for proper transit enforcement is going to be greater than ever.

Toronto Police and the Toronto Transit Commission need to acknowledge this is the best option when it comes to policing the transit system in Toronto.

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/make-ttc-special-constables-full-police-officers-2/

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