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Toronto’s fine-est: Over 1K automated speeding tickets issued to police vehicles in 2-year period

The officers issuing Toronto’s speeding tickets are also racking them up as well, as newly obtained data shows cops in the city are facing fines for more than 1,000 incidents in a 26-month period.

The tickets and figures, obtained by CTV News through Freedom of Information requests, show evidence of Toronto Police Service (TPS) vehicles, including regular patrol cars, prisoner transport vehicles, special constable cars, and even parking enforcement cars, zooming past speed limit signs across the city.

In one case, a special constable car was ticketed $120 for going 59 km/h in a school zone at pick-up time.

In another, a squad car is seen running the red light on King Street at Spadina Avenue just after 11 a.m. as a man is seen crossing in the crosswalk one lane over. That resulted in a $325 fine issued to the car.

TPS ticket

While the TPS says it frowns upon and follows procedures to deal with unnecessary speeding, figures show the number of tickets issued to police vehicles is trending upwards – from 435 in 2021 to 495 in 2022.

“We know that speed is the primary factor that determines whether someone is struck with a vehicle lives or dies. So the thought of police officers casually speeding around and potentially putting the public at risk is disturbing,” Jess Spieker of Friends and Families for Safe Streets told CTV News Toronto.

“The thought of police officers who are paid to uphold public safety in fact endangering public safety – that’s not good,“ Spieker said.

The figures show that several tickets were sent to parking enforcement vehicles, which typically do not deal with emergencies requiring high speeds. One car – PKW31 – was issued a $227.50 fine for going 65 km/h in a 40 zone at Renforth Drive and Lafferty St.

Just two days later, the same parking enforcement car sped through Bicknell Avenue at Avon Drive and was issued a $95 fine for going 45 km/h in a 30 km/h zone.

TPS tickets

Some tickets issued to police could be argued

Police are legally allowed to break certain traffic rules in the course of their duties if circumstances call for it.

Some of the cases of tickets issued to Toronto police vehicles show signs that they could be tossed, if challenged, as the speeds could be interpreted as justified.

One such ticket shows a cruiser following an ambulance through a red light, for example, and another set of tickets show a group of cars all going around 60 km/h in a 30 km/h zone in what could be a coordinated response.

The largest ticket in the sample was a squad car going 92 km per hour in a 50 km per hour zone on Jane Street at Lambton Avenue – though it’s not clear from the ticket itself whether the speeding in that case was justified.

According to city data, the spot that saw the most tickets issued to police vehicles was Beverley and D’Arcy streets, a few blocks of 52 Division in the downtown core. Fifty-five were issued at the intersection.

The next most common spot, at 44 tickets, was Sheppard Avenue East at Don Mills, just off Highway 404. In third, was Jane Street at Lambton Avenue, with 30 tickets.

The largest number of red light tickets issued to police was 23 at Warden Avenue and Ellesmere Road – many times more than any other location.

The largest quantity of tickets of any day was issued on Nov. 1, which includes the early morning hours of Hallowe’en.

What happens when a cop gets a ticket?

According to a TPS spokesperson, the service has a process in cases of officers being issued speeding tickets by automated enforcement cameras. In such cases, TPS pays the ticket up front and then, it’s up to supervisors to look into what happened and potentially dock the ticketed officer’s pay.

“In terms of process, Automated Speed Enforcement Notices involving TPS vehicles are sent to our Fleets and Materials Management team, who forward them to Professional Standards (PRS),” Stephanie Sayer wrote in an email. “PRS determines which unit the vehicle is from and notifies that unit’s Complaints Coordinator, who will then conduct an investigation to determine if an exemption is justified. If the Coordinator determines there was no justification, prescribed hours would be docked from the officer’s pay as a penalty.”

That system differs from the arrangement with, for example, TTC drivers, who are expected to pay for tickets themselves.

Data from TPS differs from City

CTV News first requested the speeding tickets issued to police vehicles in 2021, but was denied access on the grounds that disclosing the tickets could reveal investigative techniques, reveal law enforcement intelligence, and facilitate the commission of an unlawful act, and only provided the total number of tickets.

CTV appealed the denial twice with the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the TPS agreed to release a slightly redacted version of the tickets in February, following mediation.

In the interim, CTV News requested data from the City of Toronto, which provided figures on automated tickets that did not match the figures provided by the Toronto Police: in a smaller matching time period, the city figures showed about 30 more tickets.

That’s a concerning sign considering the Toronto Police just asked for and received a multi-million dollar budget bump from the City of Toronto, according to Anna Willats of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.

“Obviously they’ve got to look at what system they have for dealing with these tickets and they’ve got to change it,” Willats said.

The number of tickets issued to the Toronto Police is a tiny fraction of the tickets that are issued by the machines throughout the city – Toronto’s figures show some 380,000 tickets were issued in 2023.