Monday, May 31, 1999

Rosie DiManno

p. B1.

Tame streets made mean by cop cabal

THE POLITICIZATION of the Toronto Police Association has now reached its zenith. Or rather its nadir. Flushed, but unblushing in its increasing radical profile, the cop cabal has marched boldly into Ontario's provincial election. It's taking its agenda beyond its membership — remember that whatever mandate the association believes it has, was provided within the context of a vote for executive leadership in which the majority of officers did not participate — and to the public.

In yesterday's Toronto Sun, and perhaps in other newspapers that I've not seen, the association endorsed Mike Harris for Premier and a slate of Tory candidates. It did so in a reprehensibly scaremongering fashion by urging the electorate to cast their votes for " a safer city."

Despite some notable isolated cases of violence, Toronto is in fact a remarkable safe city, more so than any other major metropolis I've ever visited. The streets are not hijacked by criminal elements at night, there are few incidents of gunplay that claim the lives of innocent civilians, businesses are not held hostage by racketeers and extortionists.

We in the media may be partly to blame for any increased sense of danger. We play up the violent incidents that occur, largely because they are still newsworthy, if only by their rarity. In cities where violence has become commonplace, the garden-variety murders do not attract front-page coverage.

In Toronto, every death still matters. But the police association, more concerned about its power base, would have you believe that the barbarians are at the gate. If anything, the barbarians are in the police association.

Under the stewardship of hothead Craig Bromell, the flatfoot emperor from 51 Division, the association has taken on an attitude thick with menace and intimidation. Politicians with the most mild objections to police conduct have been targeted. Journalists (I use the term loosely) with souls to sell have been nurtured and rewarded. The association has made patsies out of elected officials and whores out of ambitious reporters.

They've even helped drive a police chief out of his job — a huge coup for cops who don't carry guns. At least, they're supposed to check their guns once they enter the Machiavellian world of the association offices.

Unions, by definition, agitate on behalf of their own members. They attempt to influence elections by siding with, or against a candidate.

But the police organization is not a union; its an association. This is a deliberate distinction. For one thing, police do not enjoy the right to strike, by law. Of course, this didn't stop the aforementioned Bromell from fomenting that wildcat strike at 51, just as chief-designate David Boothby was taking over the reins from Bill McCormack. And that was a situation that put the city at tremendous risk, even as it damaged the integrity of the police department.

Generally, professional organizations eschew union-clubbing, preferring the self-regulating tactics of a member association. This often does not work in practice. But nowhere is the unwillingness to discipline its own more pathological than within the police association. If anyone thinks that Bromell et al are there to even finger-wag at cops who misbehave, they must be circling Pluto.

By my reckoning, the association exists to create militant fiefdoms within the Toronto police department; to encourage professional misconduct among cops by urging them to disregard direct orders; to obfuscate, disrupt and ensnarl civilian investigations of suspect officers; to dismantle the legislated process of civilian review; and to swoop down and sweep up any officer — even those anxious to co-operate — when the special investigations unit responds to a situation that has resulted in death or serious injury.

Tough on crime, my ass. It's the bullies who are at the gate, and they come wearing badges.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

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