Tuesday, February 1, 2000

Robert Benzie

p. A1.

'It's war' if chief charges police union

Toronto's police chief yesterday ordered that misconduct charges be laid against leaders of the officers' union over the controversial Operation True Blue fundraising scheme.

Chief David Boothby said he will use powers granted to him under the Police Services Act to charge Craig Bromell, president of the Toronto Police Association, and other top unionists because they are defying his directive to stop raising money to fund political activities.

Punishment will be meted out in spite of the association agreeing to stop distributing windshield decals to donors.

"I have spoken to my trials preparation office and I have asked them to begin preparing charges of discreditable conduct," the grim-faced chief told an afternoon news conference at police headquarters. He added that "it could take upwards of a week" for the charges to be laid.

"The penalties are anywhere from reprimand to dismissal."

A cease-and-desist order was given on Friday after the Toronto Police Services Board, the civilian overseer of the department, passed a bylaw prohibiting fundraising to bankroll political causes.

John Keefe, a lawyer for the police association, said the bylaw is illegal because it violates the union members' freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"If they don't revoke the bylaw, we'll move to strike it down," said Mr. Keefe, who has become personally entwined in the imbroglio as he works at Goodman Phillips & Vineberg, the law firm that employs Dale Lastman, the mayor's son. Because of that potential conflict of interest, Mel Lastman said the city solicitor has advised him not to comment further on the matter.

The force is also proceeding with a court injunction to end Operation True Blue, said Norm Gardner, chairman of the police services board. That injunction could come as early as this week.

As first disclosed by the National Post, police association leaders held closed-door strategy sessions over the weekend and have vowed to continue collecting money through telemarketing.

The union's sole concession was that it would abandon the mailing out of the contentious decals. Supporters were being given gold, silver or bronze stickers depending on the size of their donation.

In a statement issued three hours before the chief's announcement on the Police Services Act charges, the association said, "decals will no longer be part of the campaign ... to address any possible misconceptions concerning the True Blue campaign."

Mr. Bromell was unavailable for comment, but sources said the union's executive committee is extremely disappointed that its olive branch was rejected by the chief and the police services board.

Insiders said that laying charges against the association's board of directors "will totally outrage" the union's 7,000 members.

"They just changed the tide. It's probably going to be war," said one high-level police source. "Does Buzz Hargrove [president of the Canadian Auto Workers union] get called in and punished by the president of Ford?

"It's the same thing. Besides, how do you fire Craig or deduct his pay when he doesn't work for them? The guy is paid by the police association, not the force."

Another source close to the union's executive panel suggested that Chief Boothby, who retires at the end of this month, is using the decal debacle to oust Mr. Bromell, a longtime nemesis, without fear of reprisal from rank-and-file officers.

"The association has done a lot worse than this. the chief is doing this because he's leaving and he doesn't care about the ramifications," the police insider said. "Where the hell was Boothby all the other times Craig was doing stuff?"

Asked whether he was seeking the destabilize the leadership of the popular Mr. Bromell, the chief shook his head.

"He's no threat to me," Chief Boothby said, insisting numerous officers have told him that they disagree with Operation True Blue.

"I tell my police officers, 'if you want it to stop, then you speak to Mr. Bromell. Mr. Bromell works for you. You're the one that voted him in."

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 8, 2000
Last modified: October 8, 2000
J.D. Jane Doe, c/o Walnet Institute
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710