Thursday, March 28, 1991
Royson James and John Duncanson
Premier endorses Eng despite police furorDespite some officers' threats of a work slowdown and plummeting morale, Premier Bob Rae has endorsed Susan Eng to head the Metro Police Services Board. "In my view, she is a woman of great ability who I think can serve the community well," Rae told reporters at Queen's Park yesterday.
Eng would help oversee a 6,000-member police force with an annual budget of more than $500 million.
Her promotion from police commissioner to the $90,963- a-year job appears certain. Three of the other six board members said yesterday they will support Eng in a vote expected May 16.
"It is a wonderful challenge," Eng said yesterday. "This gives me the opportunity to help the police serve the community better.
Eng to start new job by mending fencesThe furor from critics show the position's importance, she said. "I've been getting many calls of support. They are more upset about the vicious attacks against me then I am."
Eng has raised hackles in the past. She refused to swear an oath to the Queen, pressed for officers to write a report every time they unholster their guns and sought to curb their overtime pay for court appearances.
But yesterday, senior officers, including Chief William McCormack and police union leader Art Lymer, said they are willing to work with Eng. Earlier this week some officers warned her appointment would hurt police morale.
Rae said Eng deserves an opportunity to perform in the post. "Let's be fair," he said. "She's been active in her own community and the whole community. I think she's fully entitled to be giving a chance." Rae also named two new appointees to the board, Rev. Massey Lombardi and social worker Laura Rowe. Both said yesterday they will support Eng.
A commissioner on the board since May, 1989, Eng would leave her job as a tax lawyer to replace June Rowlands as the full-time chairperson.
Lombardi and Rowe will fill the vacancies left by Rowlands and lawyer Stan Makuch, whose term ran out on Feb. 24.
"My members are very wary of her and I'm not afraid to say that I'm nervous of her," said Lymer. who has criticized Eng. McCormack promised the force would "remain professional" in dealing with the police services board.
Everyone who knows her says Eng is smart and thick-skinned. And she will have to be if she moves into Metro police headquarters in May and takes on one of the more difficult challenges of her life.
During the week of speculation that she would replace Rowlands, Eng was called antagonistic, controversial, anti-cop, abrasive, anti-royalty, reformer and even worse on radio phone-in talk shows.
But, in an interview yesterday, Eng said everyone should calm down and work with her to improve policing in Metro. "The Metro police force already has a reputation as one of the best in North America, but it's not yet perfect," she said. "Because it's one of the best doesn't mean it can't be improved," she said. In pushing for change, Eng said she would urge the board to remember it has the dual role of supporting the police department while making it more accountable to the community. "We must be a watchdog, not a lab dog," she said.
Asked whether she would move her office out of police headquarters to distance the board from the force, Eng hinted she would not. "Independence is a state of mind," she said. Eng said one of her first tasks in the new job would be to begin mending fences -- with fellow board members, the chief of police and the officer on the beat. She said she would visit each police department, if necessary, to get the views of the rank-and-file officer.
Yesterday, Eng took the first step when she telephoned McCormack to tell him she is looking forward to working with him at police headquarters on College St. "He is a total professional," Eng said of the chief. In a report card filed last year, she gave McCormack an "A" for effort and a "C" for results. "We will find something to disagree with in the future but it will be done openly and honestly," she said.
It would be a huge leap in public profile for Eng. Of Chinese descent, she was born in Toronto and grew up with her three siblings over her father's restaurant at Yonge and Wellesley Sts. She graduated from Jarvis Collegiate with a 97.5 per cent average in 1970. She studied commerce at the University of Toronto, then law at Osgoode Hall and now heads up the tax department of the Blaney, McMurty, Stapell's law firm.
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