Thursday, February 10, 2000

John Duncanson and Jennifer Quinn

p. D1.

'I'm not stepping down — Got that?'

Craig Bromell says he's staying on as president of the Toronto Police Association, ending days of rampant rumours that the embattled union leader was set to call it quits.

"I'm not stepping down," Bromell said, heading for the University Ave. courthouse yesterday morning, where two officers, charged with dangerous driving stemming from a fatal police pursuit, are on trial.

"Got that?" he said with a grin, just before he walked through the courthouse's revolving doors.

Ever since Mayor Mel Lastman unleashed a torrent of criticism against Bromell and the union last week, everyone from politicians to the police and media have been expecting the outspoken union head to fall on the knife over his controversial Operation True Blue fundraising campaign.

While Lastman's attack has rocked the union executive, it doesn't appear to have been the death blow for Bromell and his so called Men in Black.

On Monday, when the police union's eight-member board met behind closed doors to discuss the fallout from True Blue, there was speculation at city hall that Bromell would emerge from the boardroom, his resignation in hand.

Some even put bets on it. It didn't happen.

The union board rallied around Bromell and began to come up with a strategy that will likely unfold over the next few months, sources say.

Union officials aren't saying what exactly was discussed, but it seems to have strengthened their resolve not to give in. Other factors have convinced the union and Bromell not to quit.

For one, the Tory government at Queen's Park doesn't seem interested in abandoning support for the union. As well, there is word that early results from a petition circulating among officers show nine of 10 support Bromell continuing in his job.

Bromell keeps quiet

If Bromell's support holds among the rank-and-file, it could mean trouble for politicians and police officials who thought they had seen the last of him.

Aside from the sparse comments he made yesterday about his future, Bromell is under a self-imposed media blackout, trying to stay quiet as the union today begins its fight in court against the police services board.

The board's injunction application is just one of the legal fights looming. On Feb. 28, the union plans to go to court to fight the recently passed bylaw banning it from mixing fundraising with politics.

To outsiders, it may appear Bromell is standing on shaky ground, especially after the public thrashing he took from Lastman, who called the association bullies and urged officers to turf the entire union executive over the True Blue controversy.

In just two years, Bromell had gone from being constable in downtown's 51 Division to the one of most powerful and feared figures in city politics.

His meteoric rise was the result of a divide-and-conquer strategy that for the majority of his three-year term as president of the 7,000-member association has worked well for the union.

The master plan was simple. He and his union executive would isolate their enemies, while integrating themselves to those who held the real power at city hall and Queen's Park.

When Bromell announced last year he had hired private investigators to help silence his critics, those who publicly lined up against him could hardly be counted on one hand. No one, it seemed, could oppose him or his union.

Police commands were equally frightened, worried that he would train his sights on them. Some were likely more concerned that Bromell would dig out some long-forgotten skeleton from their closet and ruin careers.

But then True Blue happened.

It was supposed to be a simple telemarketing fundraiser where the cash would go to pay for its high-profile campaigns to toughen federal laws, such as the Young Offenders Act.

Instead, it has been labelled as another attempt by the union to pay for its secret investigations into the lives of its opponents, such as politicians.

The union has denied this and since stopped the campaign whiles it takes the police board to court.

While Bromell and the union continues to defend their actions, insiders say some of the advisers he has relied on for the past two years to steer him through the political minefields warned him against True Blue.

When the campaign came first under fire earlier this month, the union kept trying to explain itself, but matters only seemed to get worse.

Insiders suggest that's because the union recently got rid of two key advisers — Marcel Wieder and Frank Carnevale — so they now have no one at city hall to do damage control.

Without the spin doctors who have been able to get him out of the toughest jams and keep the politicians at bay, Bromell and the union were caught off guard by the furor over True Blue.

His frank and often menacing comments he made on CBC's fifth estate recently added fuel to the fire. Again, insiders say Bromell didn't listen to people who told him not to let the camera crew follow him around for months on end.

He believed the show was doing a piece on the growing influence of police unions and his leadership in that respect.

Those who know him best have confided they were horrified when they saw the close-ups of Bromell, looking menacing, as he basically told politicians they had better watch their backs.

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