Friday, May 7, 1999

Nick Pron, Cat Millar,
Philip Mascoll and Dale Anne Freed

p. A1.

Police chief says he's retiring

Boothby shocks dinner guests by announcing Feb. 28 last day

Toronto police Chief David Boothby shocked guests at a gala dinner to honour him last night by announcing his retirement.

"I was among friends and supporters, I thought I owed the announcement to them," Boothby told reporters later. "It seemed like a good time to do it."

The 56-year-old former homicide investigator was the final speaker at the third annual Chief of Police dinner at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and his surprise announcement left the crowd of about 800 buzzing.

He'll officially retire in nine months, on Feb. 28, ending a five-year tenure that was, at times, tumultuous.

But he's going on a high note, say his supporters, among them Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman who said the city has never been safer than under Boothby.

Lastman was at the dinner but left before Boothby's announcement. "He's a great guy leading a great force… I can't believe it. it's like a wall crumbling on my head. He didn't say a word to me.

"We were talking and he didn't say a word about retiring. I'm shocked."

At Boothby's side last night was his wife of 36 years, Gloria, obviously pleased by her husband's decision. "He's my best friend. I'll have my best friend back," she said.

Her husband made his decision to step down just over two months ago, she said, telling her he "just felt the time was right."

But it was a secret Boothby kept to himself until last night when he quietly spread the word to his deputies and members of the police services board.

The hundreds of guests who paid $250 a seat for the fundraising dinner for Crime Stoppers and the three volunteer groups, milled around a helicopter, police bus, command post and other police equipment on display, not realizing the man they had come to honour would soon tell them he was stepping down.

Among the dinner guests were some possible successors for the $150,000 job, including deputy chiefs Mike Boyd and Steve Reesor, and Superintendent Bill Blair.

Boothby's announcement came as members of the police services board recently discussed whether it could limit the chief's term to five years. That meant, sources said, Boothby might have been forced to retire next year anyway.

Sources said the board is discussing appointing an interim chief to replace Boothby, possibly leaving the door open for York police Chief Julian Fantino to step in once his current tenure ends.

Boothby's main battle the past four years has been with the police union, which has gone after the chief over everything from disciplinary issues to management of the force.

Boothby was chief when Craig Bromell helped organize the first and only wildcat strike by Toronto officers in 1995. In that incident, officers shut down the police division in regent Park to protest a disciplinary hearing involving two officers.

The incident precipitated the rise of Bromell, then a patrol officer, as the powerful head of the police union, and a perception in the public and media the Boothby's own power had been eroded by the union's growing aggressiveness.

On Monday, Ontario's chief police watchdog is set to release its findings on a massive union complaint filed against Boothby and other police brass charging unfair practices when it comes to meting out discipline on the force.

Boothby said he has no regrets. "I was a farm boy in 1964 who came to the city and walked the beat," he said. "This job owes me nothing… it's been very good to me."

Boothby, originally from Keswick, said he joined the force on June 9, 1964 and was promoted as a detective to the homicide squad in 1978.

"I'll be here for the millennium and lead Canada's largest municipal force into the year 2000," Boothby said.

"I'll be in the command centre (on New Year's Eve) watching the events in Australia to see whether there is anything we need to watch for here."

Boothby has no idea who will replace him as chief but said he will assist the board in any way he can selecting the individual to take command of the 7,400-member police service.

Police services board chair Norm Gardner said the board will conduct a search across Canada to find a replacement for Boothby.

He said there are many good candidates on the force who could take over and they will be invited along with others from across the country to compete for the position.

"We've always picked internal people and obviously people who are with the service have a better understanding of the city," he said. "They know the city and many people in the city should know them."

Gardner said it's preferable to have someone who knows the individuals in the force, but he wouldn't suggest a front-runner for the chief's position.

"It would be premature for me to indicate any names. I would expect some people internally from this force to apply and I'm sure people internally from this force to apply and I'm sure people from across the country would have their eyes on Toronto."

Deputy Chief Joe Hunter said the chief told him and other command members just before the dinner that "after long consideration" he had decided to retire.

"I was hoping personally that he would stay," Hunter said. "He's been a great chief. He's a friend of mine. I admire him both as a person and a colleague."

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 9, 2000
Last modified: October 9, 2000
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