Thursday, February 3, 2000

John Saunders

p. A1.

Deputy police chief says he fears Bromell

Kerr worries about possible smear campaign

A deputy police chief has gone on television to suggest that Toronto's police union has threatened to spread damaging information about him if he does not leave the force.

Robert Kerr, once seen as a candidate for chief, has tangled repeatedly with the 7,000-member union and its president, Craig Bromell, a man he said he fears.

He complained of the threat in an interview taped last week, parts of which were shown last night on the CBC program the fifth estate.

The episode, devoted to controversies surrounding the union, offered no evidence to support his charge and no hint as to the nature of the damaging information.

By his own account, Mr. Kerr heard of the threat second- or third-hand.

He says on the tape: "A police officer came to me and indicated that there was a conversation overheard to the effect that if Kerr doesn't retire, or at least put his papers in by March, that they have information that they're going to make public.

(A partial interview transcript provided by the CBC indicates that he qualified the idea further, saying "again keeping in mind that this could have gone through a number of hands and got twisted," a clause that was not broadcast.)

Asked where such a threat might come from, he says: "My interpretation is that the police association executive has some dirt on me that they're going to use."

He does not elaborate, but he answers "Yes" when asked whether he fears Mr. Bromell.

"You're the deputy chief of the Toronto police, and you fear Constable Craig Bromell?" host Victor Malarek asks him. Seeming to struggle with his emotions, he again says "Yes."

"What does that say to the public?" Mr. Malarek asks.

"It's all, it's all very frightening," Mr. Kerr says.

Mr. Kerr, who has about 35 years on the force, could not be reached last night. He did not indicate during the program whether he plans to retire.

Chief David Boothby, who beat him to the top job on the force in 1994, retires this month, to be replaced by Julian Fantino, now chief in York region, north of the city.

Mr. Bromell, seldom shy about using his union power, has denied published reports that he asked Mr. Fantino to get rid of Mr. Kerr before Mr. Fantino was confirmed as chief-to-be.

The bad blood between the union president and the deputy chief goes back at least to 1995, when Mr. Bromell was a union rep in 51 Division.

Two constables from the division had mistakenly stopped a car in which two black men were riding, ordered them out at gunpoint, handcuffed them and made them lie face down on the street. One turned out to be City-TV assignment editor.

Mr. Kerr, ignoring a police complaint bureau recommendation that no action be taken against the constables, ordered them charged under the Police Services Act.

The constables were eventually cleared but Mr. Kerr's decision sparked an unprecedented wildcat strike in which dozens of officers refused to go out on patrol for about eight hours. Although they lost about a day's pay, the action was seen as signalling a shift in the balance of power between the union and police commanders.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

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