Monday, May 10, 1999

Rosie DiManno

p. B1.

Chief's exit a victory for Bromell

It doesn't matter, in the end, whether police Chief David Boothby jumped or was pushed.

There was a narrow window of opportunity there and Boothby took it. Picking his own time and place was likely the only gesture of self-determination he had left.

This is merely a matter of image control. The chief's term expires at the end of his contract, next February. The fact he will continue in his position until then makes him no more or less effective than he has been in the previous four years.

Boothby was always a compromise candidate, on a police services board that was, at the time of his appointment, ideologically split between Deputy Chief Bob Kerr and Julian Fantino, who's now chief of York Region. If Boothby's timing has accomplished anything, it's probably to leave Fantino in the lurch as his successor in Toronto. Fantino assumed the York job only last August. It would be unseemly for him to pursue the Toronto post after less than a year.

But ambition can be a perverse thing. And the political subtext of this situation may provoke all sorts of bizarre developments.

It seems obvious that Boothby lacked the political support on the board to continue as chief beyond the usual term. How ironic that it was former board chair Susan Eng, viewed (mistakenly) as a cop-basher, who essentially assured Boothby got the job over Fantino in the first place, when she made him her second-choice candidate over Kerr.

As things stand, it's the board's rah-rah faction that, apparently, has doubts about Boothby's leadership, his ability to inspire the troops. Or maybe it's fitting. it was Boothby's antagonism to the last chair, the underestimated Maureen Prinsloo, that contributed to an end run that got Prinsloo bounced and replaced by the perennial Norm Gardner.

Most Torontonians probably have difficulty understanding the machinations of the board, and no wonder. I fear this administrative cabal deliberately renders itself unfathomable to the public. The police board has been absurdly Machiavellian for as long as I can remember.

But there are a couple of key developments here that should be made clear to everyone who cares about the quality of policing in the city, and the very basic tenet of civilian accountability.

Boothby was not a vigorous police chief. He was caught on a few occasions providing both his overseers and the media — by extension, the public — something other than the palpable truth about significant matters, such as the investigation into the car-accident death of Constable Jennifer Barbetta, killed when driving home after a shift wherein she was posing as a prostitute, and where alcohol was consumed in the company of senior (to her) officers.

On too many occasions, Boothby was simply not there. Not for a comment, not for direction, and not to defend the moral imperatives of Toronto's police force.

In retrospect, the tone for Boothby's regime was set in the first few days, when he was still chief-elect, confronted with a disgraceful, wild-cat strike by union radicals at 51 Division. That incident ensured a corrosive relationship with division rabble-rouser Craig Bromell, who went on to become head of the police association.

Bromell is a thug but he's been working the political channels on the board (and council) with some effectiveness. Perhaps his threats of action against politicians he views as insufficiently pro-cop have frightened board members into submission, or coziness.

How else to explain that Bromell was told Councillor Olivia Chow would be nominated to the police board, while nobody bothered to inform Boothby?

It's Bromell who took out the police chief. And I'm sure he'd take a bow.

[Toronto '99] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: March 28, 2000
Last modified: January 31, 2001
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710