Saturday, January 29, 2000

John Duncanson

p. A23.

Support waning, but Bromell is a survivor

It may not be easy to oust him from powerful position

For more than two years, union chief Craig Bromell had been riding high on a wave of support from politicians and police who dared not challenge him and the powerful Toronto Police Association.

When it was time for the Tories to put together the game plan that would see Julian Fantino get the nod as the new police chief, it was Bromell's support the political powerbrokers relied on to ensure that it happened.

Now, two months after the Fantino plan was successfully executed, Bromell finds himself under siege from politicians, police brass and community leaders who have declared open season on the once Teflon-coated union leader.

The political protection afforded Bromell appears to be gone. He and his union are alone in their battle to overcome the public relations nightmare that has resulted from their fundraising drive, Operation True Blue.

As the Toronto Police Services Board held a news conference yesterday to announce a new bylaw banning political fundraising by officers, the normally outspoken Bromell was nowhere to be found.

His union officials simply put out a news release explaining their position, saying the campaign would go on despite threats by Chief David Boothby that they face disciplinary charges if the telemarketer's phones aren't shut down.

There's no doubt Bromell suspects there is more going on here than just the backlash from people who are disgusted at the fundraising efforts.

Several insiders have described the events of the past few days as payback time from political bigwigs who have had enough of Bromell and want to rein him in.

It's also being seen as the beginning of an orchestrated campaign to get rid of the outspoken union head before Fantino arrives on the scene.

"There's not enough room for two police powerhouses in this town, so one has to go," is how one police insider described it.

That sentiment was never made clearer than when Jeff Lyons, a Conservative insider and one of the key people who helped bring Fantino to Toronto, slammed his fist down on the table at the police board meeting this week and said enough is enough.

It was seen as a strong message from the Tory powerbrokers to Bromell that they weren't happy with him, perhaps even a signal that it was time for him to go.

That may not be easy. Bromell is a survivor. In 1995, he helped lead a wildcat strike at 51 Division just as Boothby was coming in as chief. Bromell should have lost the showdown, but for some reason Boothby blinked.

Boothby's decision not to discipline Bromell and the others right away was seen as sign of weakness and hurt his tenure as chief.

In 1996, Bromell again found himself at the centre of controversy. this time it was over the alleged beating of a petty criminal. For 16 months, police Internal Affairs investigators pursued Bromell and eight other officers. In the end, all were cleared.

The incident set the stage for Bromell's rise to power.

When he became union president in 1997 he had only his colleagues from the association and Gary Clewley, his good friend and a lawyer, to rely on for guidance and support.

In his first few months as union chief he was a political underdog — a position he was well accustomed to from his days battling the police brass as a constable in 51 Division. But it wasn't long before the politicians and political powerbrokers came knocking. They sensed a winner in the tough-talking Bromell.

Now that they're gone, Bromell again finds himself an underdog. The difference this time is that the stakes are much higher.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 8, 2000
Last modified: October 8, 2000
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