Wednesday, August 26, 1998

Paul Moloney

p. B5.

Police ads a go despite Lastman's concerns

Union only agrees to discuss matter with board

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman has failed to win an immediate commitment that the police union will drop plants to run ads targeting politicians who criticize the force.

After a meeting yesterday that lasted more than an hour, Lastman was promised his concerns about the planned ad campaign will be discussed by the board of directors of the 7,000-member Toronto Police Association.

"The mayor stood up for his council, put some great arguments forward, and at this point I go back to the board," union president Craig Bromell told reporters after the meeting.

Nothing changed

"But nothing's changed from before we went in," Bromell said, who was accompanied by union lawyer Gary Clewley. Bromell refused to say what he will recommend when his board meets.

The union president also declined to say how many of the 56 city councillors might be targeted for making what the union believes are unfair criticisms of police actions.

The union has already ran newspaper and radio ads criticizing the Special Investigation Unit and the provincial government. The SIU charged Constable Karl Heilimo, 31, and Geraid O' Kane, 27, following a May 11 pursuit of a van that killed 73-year-old cyclist Clyde Barnaby.

The union has not said when other ads, which will target individual city councillors, will run. Bromell said Monday that some ads will be positive ones.

Some councillors have been critical of police on issues, like the budget and accountability, including budget chief Tom Jacobek (East Toronto), Brian Ashton (Scarborough Bluffs), Olivia Chow (Downtown), Pam McConnell and Jack Layton (Don River) and Judy Sgro (North York Humber), a member of the police services board.

But Lastman said Bromell indicated the union is concerned with only a few councillors. "He said there are a very few, he didn't say who," the mayor said.

Asked whether the union raised specific examples of conduct it deems unacceptable, Lastman said Bromell complained about comments made Monday by Sgro.

The councillor told The Star it would be counterproductive for the union to conduct an advertising blitz against the very politicians who control the police department's $500 million plus budget.

Lastman said he shared the union's concerns with the councillor's comments. Sgro meanwhile, released a letter to Bromell yesterday inviting him to elaborate on the planned campaign at tomorrow's meeting of the police board.

Bromell sidestepped the question of whether he will address the board, while saying city councillors are free to speak at meetings of the union's board.

No single incident

"We're not accountable to the police services board, we're accountable to our members," Bromell said, adding that no single incident prompted the plans for the ad campaign.

"It's been in the works for months now. The feedback we get back from our members is it actually should have happened years ago."

Bromell said the union believes politicians should be more careful when commenting on police-related issues.

"Before anybody makes a statement, I think they should have actual proof and not make a statement for political gain, because it affects our members down the road."

Lastman said he suggested the police union wait until election time before ranking politicians, a practice followed by other special interest groups.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

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

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