Friday, December 22, 2000

Jonathan Jenkins

Race relations on mend: Police boss

Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino says he's slowly improving police relations with minority groups after being demonized by political opponents when he took the job.

"I was greeted here with a whole lot of misinformation (and) miscommunication," Fantino said in a year-end interview yesterday about his first nine months on the job.

"(There was) a whole lot of mischief-making on the part of certain people who wanted to demonize me on the basis of things they knew nothing about and didn't care to find out about.

"So I had to overcome some of that mischief-making."

Building bridges

Gay rights groups, suspicious of Fantino since he ordered a crackdown on child porn that many felt unfairly targeted homosexuals, and the black community, still smarting from Fantino's 1989 release of race-based crime stats in 31 Division, were particularly leery of his appointment.

Since March, Fantino says he has worked hard to build bridges through community forums, meetings and speaking engagements. He said he feels he's gaining ground.

"I think we have an understanding, we're making progress," Fantino said. "At the end of the day, we're all in this together."

Internal relations have also been a major issue for the new chief, who has had to deal with an aggressive police association and criminal or discipline charges against more than two dozen officers.

Internal crackdown

But Fantino scoffed at the notion he has ordered an internal crackdown, pointing out many of those investigations began under former chief David Boothby.

He also said he has a lot of respect for the police association and suggested its controversial boss, Craig Bromell, has been maligned just for doing his job.

"They've been demonized," Fantino said of the association's leaders. "They're people like you and me, trying to do a job. They have their own issues, their own perspective on things, but I've never found them to be unreasonable or otherwise irrational."

A low point for Fantino in 2000 was June's riot at Queen's Park, when anti-poverty demonstrators clashed with cops, leading to criticism of both sides' tactics.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: December 22, 2000
Last modified: December 22, 2000
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