Thursday, August 16, 2001

Colin Freeze
Globe and Mail Update

Chief calls in RCMP to probe Toronto police

Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino has called in the RCMP to take over an internal investigation into allegations of corruption within the country's largest municipal force.

An unidentified senior RCMP investigator is taking over the probe. The hope is that an outside officer spearheading the wide-ranging probe — which originated several years ago — will allow the investigation to be seen as impartial.

The probe has already resulted in theft charges against more than a dozen officers, and these allegations have raised credibility questions that have caused scores of drug cases to be thrown out of court.

It is believed that the RCMP-led investigation will now look at whether Toronto Police officers perjured themselves while on the stand.

Chief Fantino was not available for comment Thursday, but Staff Inspector Bruce Smollet said the chief "agonized" over the decision to request RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli's assistance several weeks ago.

Ultimately, it was decided that "we need an independent person to look at this," said Staff Insp. Smollett, who under the chief's direction circulated a memo Wednesday informing the 7,000-member police force that the RCMP were being called in.

Having an independent RCMP officer lead the investigation will foster the perception that the investigation is being done impartially, Staff Insp. Smollet said. Still, a large team of Toronto Police officers will be doing the bulk of the investigation.

The Toronto Police Association has already expressed concern at what it has described as "guilty until proven innocent" internal investigations that "do nothing but destroy the very fabric that holds us."

The union's directors, led by Craig Bromell, met Thursday and are expected to put out a statement in the afternoon.

RCMP spokeswoman Constable Michele Paradis would not name the Mountie who will lead the probe, but said the officer has "a very good reputation" and has been involved in similar investigations before.

Constable Paradis said it was "not unusual" for the RCMP to be called in cases like this, and said the request from Chief Fantino came less than a month ago.

In all, 13 Toronto police officers have been charged in relation to alleged mishandling of what the force calls its "fink fund" — a pool of money used to pay off informants.

Eight of these officers worked for a downtown drug squad, and were charged in November, 2000, with theft, fraud, forgery and breach of trust, for allegedly fudging paperwork and taking money from the fink fund that was never given to informants. They face dozens of criminal charges as well as discipline charges under the Police Act.

Prosecutors have reportedly stayed charges in as many as 50 drug cases, stretching back into 1999, in which these officers were involved.

The Toronto police internal affairs unit began looking into the drug squad in 1999, after a group of criminal lawyers told police that clients had repeatedly alleged they had been robbed by officers.

In April, 2000, five officers in other police departments — including two members of an elite unit that tracks down fugitives — were charged misappropriating about $5,000 meant for informants. The alleged infractions turned up in an internal audit.

Two other former members of the drug squad face charges that do not related to the fink fund. One constable was charged with possession of hashish and the intention to traffic in it in January, 2000. Another was charged with perjury in June, 2001.

With a report from Jeff Gray

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: August 20, 2001
Last modified: August 26, 2001
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