Friday, February 4, 2000

Cal Millar

p. A21.

Chief orders probe into Kerr allegation

Deputy charges union tried to blackmail him into retirement

Police Chief David Boothby has ordered an internal investigation into allegations that executive members of the Toronto Police Association used blackmail tactics to try to force Deputy Chief Robert Kerr to resign.

"I've asked Deputy Kerr to report this information to the Internal Affairs and have that investigated," Boothby told reporters at police headquarters yesterday.

Boothby said the command still has full confidence in Kerr's ability and is standing behind him.

Kerr revealed in an interview on the CBC's the fifth estate, which aired Wednesday, that he had been told the association was going to release information on him if he didn't see signs he would be leaving the force.

"In terms of that incident, I found it very upsetting and very intimidating," he said when questioned yesterday by the media at police headquarters.

The information came from a police officer last Friday, he said "I want to emphasize this could be strictly rumour."

Kerr said the officer advised him of information — which is believed to have come from someone on the association's executive — that the material wouldn't be released by March.

"I can tell you this has a very negative effect on me and my personal health and well-being, but I still do my job," he said. "I never let these things interfere."

Kerr acknowledged not telling Boothby about the threat before announcing it on the television program, but he said he was planning to inform him when he had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the matter.

"I had full intentions," he said.

Kerr said he has no idea what the information may be, and whether it's personal or professional, and suggested it may not be accurate.

"I have had some difficulties with some members of the police association executive and I accept that fact."

At the newsconference, Kerr said there have been a couple of recent incidents that have hurt his relationship with the union — including an accusation that he provided the names of two officers who went drinking the night Detective Constable William Hancox was stabbed to death in 1998.

"That was very upsetting because it is not true," he said.

Kerr did acknowledge that he is planning to retire after 35 years with the Toronto Police Service but has not yet filled out the paperwork.

"I'm not going to have the position of somebody pushing me out the door," he said.

Boothby said Kerr told a meeting of command officers that he indicated to the CBC he was in fear at times, but it has not prevented him from doing his job. He said the issue appears to be whether attempts are being made to gather personal information to be used to attack people.

"Let's be perfectly honest, folks," the chief said. "If any body looks at any of our lives through a microscope, there's probably something somewhere that somebody can dig up. Deputy Kerr did feel fear about some of the personal attacks and threats of personal information being exposed.

"It's certainly something that's intimidating him, but not in a sense he can't do his job," Boothby said.

Boothby said no information is available on who made the threat, but Kerr will give whatever details he has to Internal Affairs investigators.

"It is an internal investigation and the details will not be disclosed publicly," he said.

Gary Clewley, a lawyer for the Toronto Police Association, said the CBC interview with Kerr was maliciously designed to mischaracterize union president Craig Bromell.

Clewley noted Kerr said in the interview that the information had come to him third-hand and the source was not identified.

"It is completely worthless hearsay on any analysis," he said, calling it an outrage for the CBC to take "third-hand-junk" and broadcast it.

"What else can we conclude but there's an attempt here to intimidate and bully Mr. Bromell," Clewley said.

Superintendent Bill Blair, president of an association of senior Toronto officers, declined to comment on Kerr's allegations or his public airing of internal problems.

Blair said he must consult with other senior officers before making any statements on the association's behalf.

"Frankly, I think right now we should be letting the chief speak for the organization and the police service," he said.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

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