Monday, January 25, 1999

Rosie DiManno

p. B1.

It's time to rein in police union

THERE'S LAW and there's order. And most of us take it on faith that the two go together like ham and eggs.

The law is a covenant of agreed rules, clearly defined and applicable to all. The order is the means by which the Criminal Code is enforced, and the authority imparted unto special agencies to ensure that this is done.

When even the illusion of order is disparaged, the sanctity of the law is demeaned. When those who uphold order thumb their noses at the codified rules of behaviour, the whole structure shifts and sags.

Why should any of us submit, without resistance, to a paramilitary organization that has become a law unto itself?

And will nobody crush the unbridled power of the Toronto Police Association?

In the past year, under the thuggish leadership of Craig Bromell, the militancy of the police union in this city has grown to alarming dimensions.

The executive has adopted the means and methods of organized crime to advance its own political agenda: threats, moral extortion and now, its own roving gangs of private investigators to hound the efforts of the provincially empowered special investigations unit.

The police union has created a star chamber of dicks -- private eyes and former homicide detectives -- to function as a super-agency of sleuths; not to enforce the law but to subvert it, I think, if only by means of intimidation and, I suspect, exculpatory energies.

It was bad enough when Bromell announced the police union would pull together to harass and sue its own list of Most Wanted Civilians: the vocal cop critics, the less-than-obedient politicians, the vexatious social activists , the dastardly journalists. Really, anyone who still clings to the notion of free speech might be a target.

It took the greatly affronted Mayor Mel Lastman -- hardly a cop-basher -- to put that egregious scheme on hold. Bromell backed down only a bit, and only temporarily, he warned.

Given Bromell's clumsy disregard for even small gestures of courtesy, one can only imagine the pressure brought to bear for this union bossman to recognize the unpalatable nature of his by-the-throat campaign.

Now, as The Star's John Duncanson reported on Friday, Bromell and his union cabinet have gone themselves one better, or worse.

They've hired private detectives to conduct parallel probes of incidents such as police shootings, to keep an eye -- and a leash, it says here -- on the special investigations unit. Under current law, not even police are permitted to carry out parallel investigations on SIU cases, although a police chief may probe an incident involving his own officers.

The SIU investigators are quite capable of breaking down the elements of a police shooting, for example, and rendering a verdict -- usually within 30 days -- on whether a suspect officer should be charged. Only in a handful of instances has any officer been charged by the SIU.

The excoriated SIU has managed to do this despite the fanatical opposition of the police association in Toronto, which has used every stalling tactic in the book, and many not in the book, to thwart its mandate.

At its disposal, the police union has some of the best legal minds in Ontario, the knowledge that Tories at Queen's Park are keenly unwilling to tick off cops (although it was Attorney-General Charles Harnick who pushed to compel witness officers to provide statements to the SIU), and the continuing (but eroding) support of the public.

It's a weak opposition, and the police union is picking us off like beer cans on a firing range.

Someone damn well better start shooting back. Shooting from the lip, I mean.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: February 14, 1999
Last modified: February 14, 1999

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