The Woodbridge contractors’ association offering to fund the purchase of a new armoured vehicle for the Toronto police has pulled its donation in light of community concern, saying it will redirect the $275,000 to other causes.
“We believe in giving back. In that spirit, we agreed to assist the Toronto police with the acquisition of a new vehicle to support their Emergency Task Force,” reads a statement from Ron Johnson, executive director of Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario (ISCA).
“In light of the community’s concern regarding this initiative, our volunteer board has decided to redirect these funds to other community causes.”
The construction employers’ association, which includes more than 100 member businesses, had offered to pay the bulk of an estimated $300,000 needed to replace Toronto police’s 14-year-old armoured vehicle, which Toronto police chief Mark Saunders has called “outdated.”
Toronto police spokesperson Allison Sparkes said in an email Wednesday that the service respects the decision.
The private donation had been scheduled to be debated at the upcoming Toronto police board meeting; gifts over $10,000 must be approved by the seven-member civilian board.
Although Saunders said the proposed donation was in accordance with Toronto police board procedure and the City of Toronto donation policies, it drew concern about the perception of a conflict of interest and the optics of a corporate donation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I think we need to be very careful about private entities providing a donation to the police,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Toronto who researches policing, told the Star Tuesday.
In a tweet on Wednesday, national non-profit Democracy Watch, which advocates for government accountability and corporate responsibility, implored the Toronto police board not to allow the private donation to a public law enforcement agency, calling it “unethical.”
Saunders’ report to the board said Toronto police had confirmed that neither ISCA nor any of its members were currently involved in active city or service procurements as bidders, proponents or applicants.
Johnson, ISCA’s executive director, said the organization will remain “committed to supporting our communities through philanthropy,” noting the association has given money to hospitals, long term care facilities, recreation centres and veteran support groups.
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