Friday, August 28, 1998

Sue-Ann Levy

p. 16.

Police union power play

At one point in the media scrum at police headquarters yesterday, Craig Bromell decided he'd taken quite enough heat.

The police union president pushed a couple of reporters aside and -- with six equally burly escorts -- simply walked away from the camera's glare.

Not that Bromell really shed any light on what's got him so up in arms about the way his 7,000 members are being treated in this city.

The threatened ad campaign against councillors who dare speak out about police issues is merely an attempt to "enter in the debate about law and order," he said. No, they're not trying to stop anybody from saying what they think, but now they'll just "be commenting on it." How they'll comment is still a secret, he added, although the ads were ready to go Wednesday.

Yes, they'll meet with police services board chairman Norm Gardner next week, but no, they won't back down on the ads -- which are likely to target at least six city councillors -- and if board members want to speak to them, they'll have to meet on the union's turf.

In fact, Bromell nixed all board requests to speak about his motives during yesterday's meeting. "The ads are not an issue with the police services board," he claimed. "The ads will continue."

This, I feel, says it all about Bromell and his threats to virtually hold politicians hostage if they don't toe the party line.

It has nothing to do with cop-bashing or boosting morale on the force and everything to do with power, control and who's running the show at police headquarters.

Why, at one point Bromell even admitted that "yep, absolutely" things are better for Toronto police than they were under the controversial reign of police services board head Susan Eng. And , he claims, he has a good relationship with the board itself.

But what's to stop Bromell from carrying out his threats?

Police Chief David Boothby, who's been conspicuous in his silence about the ads, was out of town yesterday.

Other than determined vice-chair Judy Sgro and rumblings from the Coun. Sherene Shaw, the police services board might as well have rolled over and played dead.

Chairman Norm Gardner apparently had a bitter confrontation with Sgro just before the meeting when he tried to stop her motion asking the association to drop its campaign.

In public, Gardner was ever the police apologist. First he got assurances from city lawyer Albert Cohen that the board really has no authority over the union (never mind that the city funds the police force to the tune of $500 million). Then he assured the crowd that the members of the force act with a "great deal of professionalism," he can understand their "frustration" when people comment on things they don't know about and besides, the union has the right under the Charter, just like teachers, to say how they feel in an ad campaign.

Even outspoken mayor Mel Lastman was subdued in his criticism Wednesday. While he said the ads are "scary" and he doesn't want to see this escalate into something that's going to be "mean and vicious," he seemed buoyed by the fact no ads have yet run.

Outside yesterday's meeting Sgro was steaming that her colleagues didn't recognize the importance of "sending a message" to Bromell.

"Now you really have to wonder who's running the show," she said. "We have a role and a responsibility and it's not to stand back so the police association can roll all over us."

She says city residents are supportive of the cops but negative ads will ruin their credibility. "Maybe there aren't any issues and it's just a PR campaign," she said of Bromell's refusal to face the board.

Sgro is right. The ads are a reality and someone has to stop Bromell before this gets out of control. Or it could be a long cold winter on the city's streets.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

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

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