Saturday, March 30, 1991

Royson James

p. A1.

Eng reveals her plan to reform Metro police

Police officers won't be saluting the woman poised to become their boss -- if Susan Eng has her way. "I don't like that at all," she says. "I'm not comfortable with it."

Eng was endorsed by Premier Bob Rae this week to head the Metro Police Services Board, the agency that oversees a 6,000-member force with an annual budget of more than $500 million.

Her election to the $90,963-a-year job appears likely after three of the other six board members indicated they would support her in a vote expected May 16.

In a 90-minute interview, Eng said she will attempt to drop the practice of saluting the chairperson when she takes over from June Rowlands, whose term expires May 5.

And Eng gave the impression she won't back off from the police reforms she has advocated as a board commissioner the past two years. She said she plans to:

  • Suggest the board recommend a provincial regulation that requires officers file reports when they draw their guns.

  • Look at firearms training to give officers more confidence in using their guns and to help them decide when to shoot. "They need more target practices and more street-simulated practice."

  • Work to improve the force's race relations. "We haven't done enough in resolving the crisis of confidence between the police and the public."

  • Set up a research staff to give the board an independent opinion on policing matters. If the board is bombarded with reports written by police, it becomes difficult to see another side to issues, she said.

"With June Rowlands they knew they had a captive. They saluted her and called her Madam Chair, but in fact, they never had to worry that she would stop them or change what they planned to do," Eng said.

"We have to change that. They have to know that someone who has the mandate to set the policy agenda actually will enforce it by insisting and directing that the chief will do x and y." That could create some friction, she agreed. But "change never comes easily."

Eng said, however, she has no plans to move her office out of police headquarters to distance the board from police. And the monthly board meetings will continue to be held in the seventh-floor boardroom of the College St. police headquaters, she said. The time is not right for the board to move out from under the force's nose, she said.

Won't be "captive" to Metro force as head of police board, Eng says

The board is just emerging from a "period of irrelevance," it has a skeleton staff, little independent research, and a move toward separate offices now would cause it to founder, Eng said.

"The issue is whether you can maintain a distance, both intellectually and pragmatically from the senior officers, not in a confrontational manner but knowing that ultmately their recommendations can be challenged," she said.

Officers are fed a strict, military-like disipline and the board chairperson must be near them to establish control, she said.

"People have to get used to knowing that you are the boss," Eng said, stressing that doesn't mean she will set out in police headquaters to show she is in charge.

"You'll see a different approach"

"The structure and response pattern of police officers is such that you have to basically be seen to be part of the police establishment... and get their understanding that you are in control."

There will be some changes in the way Metro police do their work, she said, but don't expect the sky to fall. "You'll see more a different approach to things rather than specific changes." Eng aslo plans to:

  • Scrutinize the police budget to reallocate money to expenditures such as foot patrols and store front stations. First indications are that the force could do with fewer cars and also save on overtime costs, she said.

  • Encourage police to integrate more civilians into the force for jobs that do not require dealing with criminals or suspects.

  • Press the board to more agressively prod other levels of government for legislation that will help police keep the peace. The easy access to guns under current federal laws is one such issue, she said.

  • Hold public briefings for the news media on major issues as a way to educate the public on policing. "We have to do our homework and be more in the open."

  • Get the message to the rank-and-file that all officers will be treated the same, with no special privileges. "Public confidence has been shaken" by reports that police secretly let go one or more officers caught in wrongdoing, she said.

Eng would not elaborate but an inquiry is under way into a Jan. 19, 1990, resignation document in which police agreed to drop charges against former Metro constable Gordon Junger, who was believed to be involved in prostitution.

  • Support a move toward a full and independent civilian review of police actions, providing the civilians are properly trained.

  • Help the force boost recruting of visible minorities by ensuring non-whites are advanced and seen in their communities to be valued by the police department.

Eng said race relations are based on trust and with her credibility among visible minorties, she might be able to recapture that trust for the force. However, she said there will not be any quick fixes to change racial attitudes that have formed over many years.

"I hope to set up a citizens advisory committee and with my credibility on the issue, I may be able to attract some people who have lost faith in the process."

In short, Metro residents can expect the new board to take a more hands on approach of policing, rather than allowing the police chief to set the force's priorities, Eng said. But don't expect fireworks every day on every issue.

"That will be dictated by the circumstances," she said. "I'm a very results-oriented person.

"My focus is to achieve better policing. To do that I need the co-operation of all the members of the board. But I want to have open honest and frank discussion of the issues."

Eng said too much has been made of her antagonistic relationship with Chief William McCormack, adding the chief is a dedicated professional who will find it easy to work with her.

Eng promised she will listen to the rank and file, especially those unhappy with her pending promotion to chairperson from commissioner. But police must understand she has a mandate to make the force accountable and that may mean a clash of philosophies.

"I've always said what I meant"

"I'll continue to be outspoken," she said. "I've always only said what I meant and people who didn't want to hear it say I'm controversial."

Of Chinse descent, Eng was born in Toronto and grew up with her three siblings over her father's restaurant at Yonge and Wellesly Sts. She graduated from Jarvis Collegiate in 1970 with a 97,5 per cent average. She did not get a scholarship and was advised by her guidance counsellor to become a secretary.

She studied commerce at the University of Toronto, then law at Osgoode Hall. In 1984, Eng ran but failed to win a seat on Toronto City Council during a by-election. Eng is single, "thirty-something," and lives in downtown Toronto. She speaks English, French and Cantonese.

Rae also appointed Rev. Massey Lombardi and social-worker Laura Rowe to the police services board this week. They join provincial appointees Roy Williams and Eng and the three politicians from Metro Council, Metro Chairman Alan Tonks, and councillors Norm Gardner and Dennis Flynn.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: May 8, 1998
Last modified: February 15, 1999

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