Sharp erosion in public trust in police

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Sharp erosion in public trust in police

Chief Saunders not held directly responsible

TORONTO January 29th - In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll™ among 586 Toronto voters, close to 4-in-10 have less trust in Toronto’s police officers now than they did a year ago (37%), while fewer than half this number have more trust now (14%). About one half have not changed their opinion in the past year (46%). Those with less trust now are commonly younger (35 to 44 - 51%), in mid income groups ($60K to $80K - 43%) and those who disapprove of the job Chief Saunders is doing (56%).

Trust has eroded sharply in just more than one week

Two thirds of Toronto voters now say they trust Toronto’s police officers (63%), one quarter "a great deal" (26%) and more than a third “somewhat" (37%). In contrast, just more than a week ago, when the jury began deliberations in the James Forcillo trial, trust levels were sharply higher (January 20 - 78% in total, 33% “a great deal” and 45% “somewhat”).

Wide majority aware of recent police infractions

About 7-in-10 voters are aware of two recent police infractions, one where four veteran officers were charged with perjury and obstruction of justice and one where an officer was charged with firing into a stopped car (71%), and a further one sixth are aware of at least one of these incidents (16%). Awareness is highest among the wealthiest (86%) and among Doug Ford voters from the last mayoral election (81%).

One half agree these are random, isolated incidents

One half of voters agree these two incidents are random and isolated occurrences (48%), while more than one third think they are not (35%). Close to one fifth don’t have an opinion (17%). Those who don’t see these as random, isolated incidents tend to be the youngest (42%), males (42%), the least wealthy (41%), Olivia Chow voters (44%), those who disapprove of the job John Tory is doing as mayor (45%), those who disapprove of the chief of police (57%) and those who are members of a visible minority (41%).

Saunders approval is stable from last week, last month

Close to one half of Toronto voters approve of the job Chief Saunders is doing (48%) and this is comparable to just more than a week ago (January 20 - 45%) and last month (December, 2015 - 48%).

Majority say opinion of Saunders has not changed

Close to 6-in-10 voters say their opinion of Chief Saunders is neither better nor worse now than when he was appointed in April (57%).

Majority disagree Saunders responsible for recent incidents

More than half of Toronto voters disagree that Chief Saunders can be held directly responsible for recent incidents of wrongdoing in the force (56%), while only about one sixth see him as responsible (14%).

On balance, less wrongdoing seen in TPS than other police forces

In total, one quarter of voters think there is less wrongdoing in the TPS than other police forces in Canada (24%), one twentieth saying “much less” (6%) and close to one fifth saying “somewhat less” (18%). Just one sixth find there is more wrongdoing (14%), and this is made up of one tenth who see “somewhat more” (11%) and very few who see “much more wrongdoing” (3%). As many as 4-in-10 say there is neither more nor less wrongdoing in the TPS than other Canadian forces (39%).

“It is apparent that the public has taken notice of the mishaps in the Toronto Police Service recently, and this has had an effect on their trust in the policing of Toronto. While their trust has been shaken, however, no one seems to blame it on Chief Saunders, and he still maintains his very solid approval ratings, which have barely changed since he was appointed,” said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

Lorne Bozinoff, Ph.D. is the president and founder of Forum Research. He can be reached at or at (416) 960-9603.