Wednesday, January 26, 2000


p. A16.


It's the police, and they want money

Will the body that oversees the Toronto force order the police union to end its unacceptable tactics?

Craig Bromell and the union he leads, the Toronto Police Association, are on an offensive crusade that seems to violate the provincial law that governs the police. Is the Toronto Police Services Board, which meets today, up to the job of setting Mr. Bromell straight?

The association wants to reshape the political landscape to make it friendlier to the police. To that end, it will hire private investigators to dig up dirt on political candidates whose views the police don't like. The public is expected to trust that none of this dirt will be mined from police files by police officers themselves.

It has hired telemarketers to raise funds from the public for Operation True Blue, which will pay for these investigations. It is handing out decals to supporters of the fund, decals they may stick on their car windows as a sign of solidarity. The public is invited to believe that law-enforcement officers seeing such a decal will show no favouritism toward those who are demonstrably True Blue, and won't think twice about, say, issuing a speeding ticket.

Members of the Law Union of Ontario this week accused the association of violating Ontario's Police Service Act. A reading of the law explains why.

Section 46: "No municipal police officer shall engage in political activity, except as the regulation permits." The regulations: Even if not on duty, and not in uniform, a police officer may not solicit or receive funds, or engage in "political activity that places or is likely to place the police officer in a position of conflict of interest." Unless an officer's views on an issue are directly related to the police officer's responsibilities as a police officer," the officer may not "associate his or her position as a police officer with the issue."

Section 49: "A member of a police force shall not engage in any activity that interferes with or influences adversely the performance of his or her duties as a member of a police force, or is likely to do so; that place him or her in a position of conflict of interest, or is likely to do so, in which he or she has an advantage derived from employment as a member of a police force."

And yet, despite all this, a telemarketing campaign is being waged in the officers name, by police officers, for police officers, to pay for private investigations of legitimate political candidates with no evidence of any offence of any offence having been committed (unless freedom of political thought qualifies). Those who agree to contribute are given decals to notify others that they are on the right side.

How does Mr. Bromell, who says the law union's lawyers "don't know what they're talking about," justify all this?

His answer: When a police officer is seconded to the association executive, he stops working as a police officer and therefore isn't bound by the law.

Not by our reading of the force's code of conduct. There are only two circumstances in which a union representative is excused from actions that would otherwise constitute misconduct under the act: when he "communicates to the media or to any unauthorized person any matter connected with the police force"; and when he "directly or indirectly solicits or receives a gratuity or present . . . " By our reading, that doesn't cover fundraising or calculated attacks on participants in elections.

Mr. Bromell isn't in a mood to brook criticism. "Even if the chief (of police) was to do something," he says, "we wouldn't listen to him. He doesn't have any power over us.

The Police Services Board does. It has the authority to "establish guidelines consistent with Section 49 for disclosure secondary activities and for deciding whether to permit such activities."

It shouldn't take the board long to figure out that the association's tactics reek of disrespect for civilians control and disregard for the law. The union is signalling to political candidates and others who count on the police for protection that they will either play by the union's rules or be considered fair targets for intimidation and harassment. And, one by one, it is asking the people its members serve to give the police money to make sure (in Mr. Bromell's words) that "those we feel are not good for policing and law and order don't get back into office." The campaign gives everyone at home a chance to say (a) yes, I support the police, or (b) no, I don't support the police. Oh, and they know your number.

If the board can't see the need to swiftly challenge this outrageous abuse of authority, its masters in the Ontario government should step in and read Mr. Bromell the riot act.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 7, 2000
Last modified: October 7, 2000
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