Tuesday, February 2, 1999

John Duncanson

p. B1.

Gardner comes under fire

Police union drops support for chairman

Toronto police services board chairman Norm Gardner can no longer count on the support of the powerful Toronto police association, union boss Craig Bromell says.

"He's not the friend people think he is," said Bromell, adding the union decided to go public with its displeasure with Gardner's performance after a weekend executive meeting. Gardner has long been perceived as a staunch police supporter.

Bromell said the union is being unfairly blamed for the antics of police board members and city councillors involved in last week's attempt to oust Judy Sgro from her job as the board's vice-chair.

Jeff Lyons, a Tory fundraiser and lawyer, had enough votes on the seven-member board to defeat Sgro, but pulled out of the race after realizing the public and city council didn't want her removed from her post she has held for the past year.

The police union was blamed for orchestrating the attempted coup, but Bromell said the organization had nothing to do with the incident, even though it had publicly denounced the outspoken councillor in the past.

He said the public spectacle surrounding last Thursday's vote on Sgro's job, which he described as an embarrassment and a joke, solidified the union's attitude that the entire police board, including one-time ally Gardner, is weak and not worth supporting.

Bromell, who many consider the most influential union boss ever to run the 7,000-member police association, said Gardner and the board have failed to protect his members on several key issues.

He pointed to the board's decision not to interfere in last year's disciplining of Deputy Chief Steve Reesor for selling his personal handgun through the police's scandal-plagued gun unit.

Reesor was "counselled" by Chief David Boothby, something the union called a slap on the wrist, considering that two clerks at the unit were fired for minor wrongdoing.

Police union drops support of services board chairman

Bromell also said it was the union that had to make public the fact that police cars were falling apart.

For his part, Gardner didn't seem fazed about the union's sudden cooling toward him and other members of the board. "If they're unhappy, well, they're unhappy. What can I say?"

Gardner said yesterday that, despite Bromell's position, he will continue to treat the union in a professional way. "I'm doing my job, and public safety is my main concern." Gardner also reiterated that he had nothing to do with attempts to get rid of Sgro.

Bromell said yesterday the union has decided to step up its campaign against those deemed to be anti-police.

The campaign began last year, when the union first went after Sgro for criticizing police chases and comparing the union's tactics to police in Louisiana.

When the association proposed the ad campaign, aimed at politicians who criticize the force, Sgro said it reminded her of Louisiana, where people who speak out about police "are found dead in the back of a car."

Sgro later apologized for the comment.

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

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

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