Saturday August 29, 1992

Christie Blatchford

p. News 5.


Cops don't flinch at Junger report

"It goes to intent, the intent to do something wrong. Everyone did what they did in good faith." -- Metro Police Chief Bill McCormack, in defence of himself and his force

Bill McCormack might have been chagrined. He could reasonable have felt chastised. It would not have been a surprise if he had been apologetic. there were even those who believed (this was quickly revealed as ludicrously naive) he might have been so shattered as to offer his resignation.

After all, the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services inquiry had just lambasted the Metro force for showing "a tremendous lack of integrity" in its handling of the Gordon Junger case and painted a picture of a secretive organization whose members are not always subject to the laws that govern the rest of us.

But at his press conference at police headquarters yesterday, with many senior officers watching, McCormack appeared unrepentant.

Clearly, he was unnerved. This showed in his uneasy body posture, an odd thickening of his voice from time to time, a new curtness with reporters. But sorry? Regretful? Never.

But then, of all the parties who were a part of this distressing business, and whose conduct has been found wanting, and who have spoken publicly -- June Rowlands, Susan Eng, and now the chief -- none has accepted a whit of responsibility.

Rowlands, now the Toronto mayor but at the time of the Junger case, the chair of the police board, has whined that it's "easy to criticize after the fact."

Eng, now the chair but then a rookie on the board whose collective behavior was ostrich-like, has criticized the inquiry for not doing the board's dirty work -- that is, meting out discipline.

It seems only fitting, in this company, that the chief should acknowledge only, and not with particular sincerity, "procedural errors"; that he should actually quarrel with the description of the Junger resignation agreement as "a secret deal" (how else could one fairly describe a document that bound the signing parties to confidentiality and which came before the public only because a newspaper, in this case the Toronto Star, broke the story?), and that he should use the occasion to pat himself on the back for running "an open administration"? And that is not the worst of it.

The worst of it is that McCormack -- and by inference, the force -- seems to have learned nothing from this entire disgraceful affair.

What Frank D'Andrea and his fellow inquiry members wrote on Page 29 -- "Those in charge . . . do not seem to realize the seriousness of this matter" -- still holds true. The chief, as evidenced by what he said at both the press conference and in an earlier private interview, seems genuinely unable to grasp what is at the heart of the issue.

This is not "intent." There is no doubt the chief, the internal affairs unit, and the force's senior management were utterly appalled by the video which showed Gordon Junger, cop-turned hooker, putting a wad of cash into his wallet, right beside his police badge. the mildest thing McCormack said to me when he was talking about Junger yesterday is that he didn't want "guys like that in the goddamned building."

This is why when he suspended Junger, which he did immediately, he suspended him "away from the force" -- a change from the temporary re-assignment that then was the norm.

That was McCormack's and the force's intent. It was entirely noble: Junger had shamed the uniform, and they couldn't even bear to look at him. But that is not good enough.

At the very core of the Junger matter is not intent, but integrity -- the integrity of the justice system. the system's front-line keepers are police officers. The public must have confidence they will treat all of us equally, and that they themselves are subject to the laws and the processes they are sworn to uphold.

In its haste and distaste, the force let Junger, who was, after all, the accused person -- the suspect, for God's sake -- dictate his own fate and the astonishing terms of that secret deal.

At that press conference yesterday, watching the chief's tragic performance, I found myself thinking of Dudley Laws and the Black Action Defence Committee and some of those who have been among the most unfair critics of this excellent police force.

Many times, I have seen the men and women band together against this sort of criticism, close the blue wall tight. As someone who has often defended the force against the cheap shots, I tell them that this is not one of those times. This time, the criticism is just. And it is important.

Imagine how much better it would be if today, we could say to Dudley Laws, "Look at how this police force deals with a bad cop, just look," if the whole damn world had been able to watch as the wheels of justice ground their inexorable way against Gordon Junger, the way they would for you and me and Dudley Laws, if the process had been open, the way it would be for you and me and Dudley Laws.

But we saw none of it, and were it not for a few newspaper stories we would known none of it, and somewhere along the line, Gordon Junger might have got that nice neutral job reference the secret deal promised him, and he might now be wearing the uniform again in some other town.

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Created: December 12, 1998
Last modified: December 12, 1998

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