City takes over Beach Lifeguard Service from Toronto Police

Published on Monday, 23rd Apr, 2018 at 6:21pm

Toronto Lifeguards on duty at Kew Beach.

Photo: Beachify

Toronto Lifeguards on duty at Kew Beach.

The City of Toronto has taken over responsibility for Lifeguard operations at the City's beaches from the Toronto Police Marine Unit. Lifeguards at Woodbine Beach and Kew-Balmy Beach, along with the City's nine other public beaches, will now be trained and managed by the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department. The Toronto Police Service's Marine Unit had been administering the Beach Lifeguard Program since 1982.

In 2014 former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee commissioned consultants KMPG to produce what turned out to be a highly controversial report on reforming police operations in the face of mounting budget pressures. The $200,000 report, delivered in November 2015, recommending radically transforming the Toronto Police Service, including closing all 17 police divisions and replacing them with storefront operations, shrinking platoon sizes, trimming middle-management and transferring some non-core work to civilians and private security firms.

Spurred by the report, in February of 2016 Mayor John Tory appointed the Way Forward Transformational Task Force, co-chaired by police board chairman Andy Pringle and Chief Mark Saunders, to make recommendations for "transforming" the Toronto Police Service. While the task force's 2017 final report dropped most of the more controversial measures, it did recommend divesting police of the Beach Lifeguard Program, as well as school crossing guards and some other non-core functions.

City Council adopted the recommendations, and as of November 2017 responsibility for the Beach Lifeguard Program was transferred from the Toronto Police Marine Unit to the City's Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department. The City already manages the lifeguard program at more than 60 indoor and outdoor pools across the city.

While the move trims $1.1 million from the Toronto Police budget, the 2018-2020 City budget earmarks over $1.4 million for the Beach Lifeguard Program, citing "a narrower span of control and increased relief coverage, as well as the required contribution to reserves for the replacement of the program's assets in the future."

In addition, the budget document notes "No savings were identified in Toronto Police Service as civilian staff currently administering and supporting this program will be redeployed to other priorities within TPS despite the program will be delivered by alternative means."

The Beach Lifeguard Program employs 84 Lifeguards and 13 Head Lifeguards, who are responsible for the city's eleven beaches. The Leuty Lifeguard crew consists of three head guards and thirty lifeguards. Lifeguards use twelve rowboats, five paddleboards, a kayak, and a seventy-five horsepower Boston Whaler to cover 3 km of shoreline. They are headquartered at Leuty Lifeguard Station.