Tuesday, November 30, 1999

Michael Valpy

p. A22.

Something smells pretty rotten about Fantino's appointment

Yes, you've got it right. Julian Fantino is the man chosen to be Toronto's police chief before the public knew he was a candidate.

Yes, you understand correctly how it happened. Julian Fantino got to be police chief by being the man who wasn't there. The mayor, Mel Lastman, and the chairman of the Toronto Police Services Board, Norm Gardner, simply denied he was a candidate until his appointment was announced.

How better to avoid controversy around a controversial candidate? And yes, as you can read in reporter Timothy Appleby's article today, it is police union boss Craig Bromell — who calls politician-critics of the force scumbags and hires private investigators to spy on them — saying of Mr. Fantino: "All indications are we're going to get along, and be a pretty powerful team together."

And if your still on your feet after reading Mr. Bromell's comment, yes there have been firm signals from the Progressive Conservative government at Queen's Park that Mr. Fantino is the man Mike Harris and his people have wanted for the job.

When you make, as the Tories have made, "law and order" a part of political ideology — when you paint a portrait of Toronto and other Ontario cities as places of rampant criminal violence and unchecked sociopathic behaviour — the result, not surprisingly, is politicization of both the Toronto police and the process for appointing a new chief.

It is a result that gives you Craig Bromell. It gives you Mr. Fantino, touted as a law-and-order man, and the smelly way he has been named chief.

It gives you a leak of the names of Mr. Fantino's competitors to the media, embarrassing those who, like Mr. Fantino, work for other police forces. It gives you some of the most astute and knowledgeable Toronto councillors and their aides talking disgustedly in City Hall about an appointment decided upon weeks and maybe months ago.

It gives you several matters unresolved.

The idea of the Toronto Police Services Board acting — in the words of a previous inquiry into the force's integrity — as "civilian overseer of the police on behalf of the community" is ridiculous.

The mayor sits on the board for photo opportunities. The chairman, Mr. Gardner, is a police cheerleader. The provincial government appointees sit by dint of Queen's Park grace and favour. Which leaves Olivia Chow, who knows what she's doing, and a 23-year-old student who somehow got there as a "community representative."

A serious breach of confidentiality was committed by the leak of the names of the shortlisted applicants — causing as far as the public can ascertain — two applicants to withdraw. Mr. Gardner should either commission an inquiry into the contaminated process or declare himself unable to chair the board capably and give the job to someone else. Somewhere, there's got to be public rectitude.

Several days ago, a number of community groups voiced their opposition to two men understood to be leading applicants — Mr. Fantino being one. Among the groups were the Chinese Canadian National Council and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. In an interview with The Globe and Mail Mr. Gardner described the groups as "scumbags" — there's a fondness for this word — who "are acting like a drunken mob." Toronto lawyer Julian Falconer has complained about Mr. Gardner's behaviour to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCOPS), stating that Mr. Gardner's language violated the board's code of conduct.

Mr. Falconer also has complained to OCCOPS about a board meeting chaired by Mr. Gardner, at which Mr. Falconer said the police union president attempted to control future statements made by board members about the force. One would hope OCCOPS would act immediately on Mr. Falconer's letter.

Around City Hall, the force is considered to be an administratively mismanaged dog's breakfast. Who is going to fix that?

Well, who else but the city's councillors — a majority of whom unfortunately do as they're told by the mayor's office. I'll take bets that Mr. Lastman, a politician of normally superb acuity, is offside with the public in this issue.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 8, 2000
Last modified: October 8, 2000
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