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Toronto Police Service pays to produce ‘behind-the-scenes’ podcast

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In a time when policing is highly scrutinized, the Toronto Police Service says it’s giving the community a “behind-the-scenes view” of its activities with a podcast. The series “24 Shades of Blue” is controversial because the department spent more than 300,000 Canadian dollars ($200,000) to produce it with a third party, according to a CBC Toronto investigation.

This year, the police service received a budget bump of 48.3 million dollars to improve response times and hire more community safety officers. Some people online have expressed concern over funding the podcast project, calling it “copaganda.”

In the first episode from 2020, a host says he intends to show more of the job that’s not represented in traditional media.

“Systemic racism exists,” former Chief of Police James Ramer said. “It exists in every institution. It exists in policing. And the first step in changing is understanding that and recognizing it. And we do and we’re sort of working towards that. But at the same time we also have a whole group of people — an entire organization — the vast majority of which have a genuine and sincere commitment to the profession and they are doing good work.”

Tension between police officers and the communities they patrol have been especially high since George Floyd’s death — not only in the U.S., but in Canada as well.

While an Ipsos poll showed 51% of the Canadian population supported defunding the police in 2020, not one city police department there has done so, according to Concordia University professor Ted Rutland. He says their budgets have only gone up.

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SHANNON LONGWORTH: THESE DAYS, EVERYBODY HAS A PODCAST.

APPARENTLY, EVEN A CANADIAN POLICE FORCE DOES.

IN A TIME WHEN POLICING IS HIGHLY SCRUTINIZED, THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICE SAYS IT’S GIVING THE COMMUNITY A BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIEW OF ITS ACTIVITIES.

THE SERIES—24 SHADES OF BLUE—IS CONTROVERSIAL BECAUSE THEY’VE SPENT MORE THAN $300,000 TO PRODUCE IT WITH A THIRD-PARTY, ACCORDING TO A CBC TORONTO INVESTIGATION. THIS COMES AS THE POLICE SERVICE JUST RECEIVED A BUDGET BUMP OF 48.3 MILLION DOLLARS TO IMPROVE RESPONSE TIMES AND HIRE MORE COMMUNITY SAFETY OFFICERS.

SOME ONLINE ARE WONDERING WHY TPS IS SPENDING THAT MUCH MONEY ON THE PODCAST, CALLING THE PROJECT “COPAGANDA.”

IN THE FIRST EPISODE, FROM 2020, A HOST SAYS HE INTENDS TO SHOW MORE OF THE JOB THAT’S NOT REPRESENTED IN TRADITIONAL MEDIA.

JAMES RAMER: “SYSTEMIC RACISM EXISTS. IT EXISTS IN EVERY INSTITUTION. IT EXISTS IN POLICING. AND THE FIRST STEP IN CHANGING IS UNDERSTANDING THAT AND RECOGNIZING IT. AND WE DO AND WE’RE SORT OF WORKING TOWARDS THAT. BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE ALSO HAVE A WHOLE GROUP OF PEOPLE—AN ENTIRE ORGANIZATION—THE VAST MAJORITY OF WHICH HAVE A GENUINE AND SINCERE COMMITMENT TO THE PROFESSION AND THEY ARE DOING GOOD WORK.”

SHANNON LONGWORTH: TENSION BETWEEN POLICE OFFICERS AND THE COMMUNITIES THEY PATROL HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY HIGH SINCE GEORGE FLOYD’S DEATH—NOT ONLY HERE IN THE US, BUT IN CANADA AS WELL.

AND WHILE AN IPSOS POLL SHOWED 51% OF THE CANADIAN POPULATION SUPPORTED DEFUNDING THE POLICE IN 2020…NOT ONE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT THERE HAS DONE SO, ACCORDING TO CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR TED RUTLAND. HE SAYS THEIR BUDGETS HAVE ONLY GONE UP.

WHETHER THIS PODCAST IS EFFECTIVE IN REPAIRING RELATIONS IN TORONTO IS UNCLEAR. BUT THE SHOW CONTINUES, AS THE FORMER CHIEF SIGNED A THREE-YEAR CONTRACT EXTENSION IN 2021.