News / Toronto

Ontario policing laws overhaul could allow chiefs to suspend officers without pay

Proponents of unpaid suspension argue it will save taxpayers money and promote public trust in policing.

Const. James Forcillo leaves court in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Forcillo has been found guilty of attempted murder in the 2013 shooting death of troubled teen Sammy Yatim on an empty streetcar.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/CHRIS YOUNG

Const. James Forcillo leaves court in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Forcillo has been found guilty of attempted murder in the 2013 shooting death of troubled teen Sammy Yatim on an empty streetcar.

Toronto is still footing Const. James Forcillo’s nearly six-figure salary as he awaits sentencing, a practice that could change as the province overhauls its policing laws.

Premier Kathleen Wynne hinted this week that the ongoing revamp of the Police Services Act could give police chiefs the power to suspend officers without pay. Doing so would fulfill a request made by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as Forcillo’s old boss, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair.

"It's something that has been raised for a number of years," Wynne said.

Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder Monday in the 2013 shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim. He’s been suspended from the force, but will keep collecting a paycheque until Superior Court Justice Edward Then hands down a sentence.

Before that happens, Forcillo’s lawyer plans to ask for a stay of the jury’s decision. No one knows how long the process will take.

“He could be out on bail and continuing to get paid for six months, if not a year,” said Reid Rusonik, a criminal lawyer in Toronto who’s followed the case.

Ontario remains the only jurisdiction in Canada where an officer in Forcillo’s situation is required to be paid.

Proponents of unpaid suspension argue it will save taxpayers money and promote public trust in policing. Critics say it could unjustly deprive innocent officers of their income.

“We’re content with the existing safeguards that allow officers to go out there and do their job and not worry that their livelihoods could be taken away because of an allegation,” said Mike McCormack, head of the Toronto police union.

Some worry giving chiefs the power to suspend without pay could lead to abuse.

“If you’re on the right side of the chief’s ledger, then you’re going to get paid, but if you’re Peter Sloly, you’re going to get charged with a minor offence and be without an income,” Rusonik said, referencing the deputy chief’s recent comments criticizing the Toronto Police Service.

According to a 2011 report from the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards, there are an average of 13 officers suspended in Toronto at any given time, each costing about $270 a day.

Officers have been suspended in recent years on charges including murder, child sexual assault, drug trafficking and bank robbery.

With files from Torstar News Service

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