Monday, January 25, 1999

John Duncanson

p. B1.

Parallel probes don't rattle police chief, SIU

Police union's private eyes won't affect probes

The integrity of internal probes into alleged misconduct by Toronto officers won't be undermined by parallel investigations by the police union, Toronto police Chief David Boothby says.

Boothby was responding to news that the Toronto Police Association has hired a slew of private detectives, including former homicide officers, to go toe-to-toe with investigators from Ontario's special investigations unit and the force's own internal affairs unit.

"The chief wants to assure the community and police members that this position and initiative by the police association isn't going to affect the quality and integrity of any investigation," said Inspector Margo Boyd, a spokesperson for Boothby.

Boyd said the force is confident the union will play by the rules and won't interfere in any ongoing criminal probes. She also said citizens must realize the difference between the work of police and the role of the 7,000-member union.

"We want to remind everyone not to confuse the Toronto Police Association with the Toronto Police Service," Boyd said.

"I want to stress that speaking to a private investigator is a totally voluntary decision that any individual can make," she said, adding that it's not unusual to see private detectives get involved in criminal cases.

Police are used to running into private investigators, hired by defence lawyers or insurance companies, as they carry out their own probes, she said.

Toronto Councillor Judy Sgro, the vice-chair of the Toronto police services board, said the union's tactics will only hurt the force.

"I think it sends out a negative message. Frankly, I think this is bad for the image of the cops," she said, adding it's time police officers start questioning what their union dues are being spent on.

"The members need to be concerned about whether their money is being spent wisely or not," she said.

At SIU headquarters last week, there was more anger than worry about the union's latest attack on the agency. But officially, there was little comment. As SIU spokesperson Gail Scala put it: "We remain focused on our responsibility to fulfil our mandate."

Tom Klatt, a former Toronto officer who spent five years tracking down killers as a homicide detective, confirmed last week his private investigation firm has been retained by the police union on a case-by-case basis.

Klatt left after 19 years as a police officer to form MKD International Inc. with former Toronto detectives Jim Downs and Steve McCormick.

All three will work for the union, including conducting parallel investigations into SIU cases, such as police shootings, and even shadowing investigations by their former colleagues with internal affairs.

In all, the union has hired 16 private investigators as part of its new policy of aggressively challenging police critics, government agencies and politicians it feels are treating police unfairly.

In December, the association approved a multi-million-dollar war chest to pay for the campaign, which president Craig Bromell said yesterday won't lead to any increase in union dues.

Klatt, who was involved in several high-profile murder cases, said he doesn't feel uncomfortable about going up against his former force during a parallel probe.

"It comes with the job, he said. "We are certainly not going to interfere with any proper process that's taking place. That's not an issue," he said.

For example, Klatt said you won't see him or his partners standing behind police lines or those used by SIU, waiting to pounce on witnesses.

A lot of their work will be done behind the scenes, after the SIU has completed its interviews, he said.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

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

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