Monday, August 24, 1998

Rosie DiManno

p. B1.

Police union exposes its zealotry

We should all get down on our knees and thank Craig Bromell. At least, those who genuinely care about the rule of law -- the sanctity of order -- should do so.

Logically, that would include the police sycophants who believe that cops represent an ideal of sorts by embodying the forces of good against the tyranny of evil, or chaos. those who have been historically, and rather contemptuously, dismissed as anti-cop or "cop bashers" -- a clumsy generalization for anyone who's ever dared to merely question the infallibility of police conduct -- could never, never, have presented their concerns more eloquently than the Metro Toronto Police Association has done for them in recent weeks.

Now, even the most rabidly pro-cop elements have paused to reconsider the wisdom of their unquestioning devotion to the men and women in blue. Lordy, Lordy, even The Sun editorial writers.

What you have witnessed over the past fortnight, dear public, is just a hint of the bully quality -- the arrogance and vehemence -- that has long worried those who have supported an uncompromised system of civilian overview of police.

For all their whining about civilian interference and undue scrutiny of their behavior, police in this city have had only minimal obstruction of their collective will and the most tepid after-the-fact due diligence.

Furthermore, despite the oft-heard refrain of plunging morale, the (quite proper) outpouring of support for police in the wake of two tragic deaths -- the stabbing of Toronto Detective Constable Bill Hancox and the drowning of Waterloo Region officer Dave Nicholson -- demonstrated how very much the public appreciated their police.

It seem obvious to me the Toronto police union -- and it should be stressed the union is not the same thing as the police (one is a militant and self-absorbed employees' organization; the other a sworn-in, quasi-military civil service of law enforcers) -- lost much credibility and a whole lot of public support in their recent series of newspaper and radio ads.

The timing, whether deliberate or not (and Bromell claims not) -- coming immediately on the heels of Hancox's funeral --is hideous. Even if the union did not intend to give offence, that is precisely how this unfortunate coincidence(?) was perceived by some of the public, and that includes vocal police supporters.

Many also did not appreciate the lack of consideration shown towards the family of Clyde Barnaby, the elderly gentleman killed (by the driver of a stolen van) during the police chase which has been the spark for this current mass media campaign.

Except for a passing disclaimer (it amounts to: sorry you're dead, Clyde) in the newspaper ads, it's as if Mr. Barnaby never existed, and that he left behind no grieving wife or daughter or friends. He's irrelevant.

The political issue here -- dangerous driving charges laid against two officers involved in the chase -- is paramount to the union. So much, in fact, that Bromell et al would attempt an end-run on the very judicial system of which they are part, rather than leave such matters to be decided in a courtroom.

But even that wasn't ungracious enough for the union. Bromell has already said the association's next grand scheme is to target politicians who haven't been supportive enough of cops, thus politicizing the rank and file in a manner never before seen in this country.

These are the tactics of anti-abortion zealots and other one-issue fanatics who soil election campaigns by trying to hijack the process. It's a way to (metaphorically, of course) hold a gun to the head of any politician deemed not compliant enough.

That should alarm all of us.

But thank you, thank you very much, Mr. Bromell, for so shamelessly exposing yourself.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: February 15, 1999
Last modified: February 15, 1999

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