Saturday, January 29, 2000

Paul Moloney and Bruce DeMara

p. A1.

New bylaw bans True Blue

But Mayor Mel Lastman says, 'I think there's going to be a real battle. I'm just afraid of that. I was hoping we could get it done peacefully … People in Toronto love our police, they respect our police. I just want it to stay that way'

The Toronto Police Services Board has moved decisively to shut down its union's Operation True Blue campaign, unanimously passing a special bylaw banning it.

A day after city council unanimously condemned the telemarketing fundraising campaign, the board — also approved a plan to seek a court injunction early next week.

Police Chief David Boothby said the bylaw gives him the tools he needs to immediately shut down the campaign by the Toronto Police Association , which gives people decals to display on their vehicles in exchange for cash donations.

The union remained defiant, however, issuing a news release yesterday stating it intends to continue the campaign, which is raising money for political activism.

Boothby issued an order yesterday for the association and its president, Craig Bromell, to obey the bylaw.

"That certainly is what I would expect, that they (association) would respect the wishes and the orders of the police services board and the office of the chief of police," Boothby said.

He said he won't hesitate to lay charges under the Police Services Act of disobeying a lawful order, with penalties ranging from a reprimand to dismissal from the force.

The True Blue campaign ignited more sparks yesterday as politicians reacted to the contents of an internal police association memo leaked to The Star. The memo states that, as well as raising funds to promote the union's position on hot issues such as the Young Offenders Act, the campaign will be used to create a database of police opponents.

"The funds raised from this campaign will . . . also help us develop a database throughout Toronto that we can utilize at the push of a button and that will help us immensely when we decide to challenge those politicians who obviously do not support us and/or help elect those politicians who do."

Councillor Olivia Chow (Downtown), who sits on the Police Services Board, called the database plan "very, very frightening."

"It really is threatening," said Councillor David Soknacki (Scarborough Highland Creek), who says he dealt with the union's efforts to elect supposedly pro-police politicians when he faced an opponent in the last election who was endorsed by the police association.

Councillor David Miller (High Park) said citizens are fearful, too. "They're terrified that the police are compiling a list of people they believe to be opponents of the police . . . ," Miller said.

"I've received incredible numbers of phone calls about this issue because the police association is phoning in my ward," Miller said.

"Every single one of those phone calls has said, "This is wrong. I'm scared. I said no. Are they (police) keeping me on a list somewhere as somebody who doesn't support police?" Miller added.

Mayor Mel Lastman, who sits on the police board and attended the closed-door meeting yesterday, said, "I think there's going to be a real battle. I'm just afraid of that… I was hoping we could get it done peacefully…

"People in Toronto love our police, they respect our police. I just want it to stay that way."

Yesterday, the police association fired a volley, announcing it had hired the legal firm of Goodman Vineberg Phillips — where Lastman's son Dale, is a partner — to defend itself against the board action.

Earlier this week, Bromell said publicly he's not required to follow orders from Boothby.

"The only one I take orders from is my own board of directors," Bromell said.

Chow said a raft of legal opinions gathered suggested the board will prevail in court. "If he (Bromell) wants to waste his officers' and his association's funds and fight us in court, then so be it. He has to remember it's the taxpayers' money, its police money, it's hard-earned dues. Does he really want to waste that money in court?" Chow said.

Police board vice-chair Jeff Lyons — who earlier this week said publicly he's had his office swept for electronic devises out of concern for the union's tactics — said any money collected to date should be returned to donors.

"I'm suggesting to any good lawyer out there . . . that they should institute a class action against the association for the return of the monies," Lyons said.

Lyons said the board has also asked the province to clarify a regulation in the Police Services Act on the rights of officers to engage in political activities.

"I would like the province to look at this situation again because I think we've given them (police association) too much power in this area and they've abused it," Lyons said.

But civil rights lawyer Julian Falconer said the board's actions don't go far enough in disciplining Bromell for statements he's made already about the need to get rid of politicians believed to be anti-police.

"The board had an opportunity today to come out with disciplinary measures towards Craig Bromell. They didn't do it," Falconer said.

"If any other officer on the beat started threatening or in any way intimidating politicians, they'd be charged. Why is Craig Bromell different?" Falconer added.

Meanwhile, police union officials from Calgary will fly to Toronto next month to research the True Blue strategy.

Association head Al Koenig said his union plans to pit law-and-order candidates against politicians who take verbal shots at Calgary police, using campaign money raised through the sale of pro-police bumper stickers.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

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