Friday, November 5, 1999

John Duncanson

p. A1.

Fantino set to be police chief

He's a certainty to be voted in, sources say

York Region's Julian Fantino is all but assured of becoming Toronto's next police chief when the vote takes place in the next few weeks, sources say.

Backroom politics and the support of Ontario's top Tories appear to have set the stage for Fantino, considered a staunch law-and-order police leader.

The only stumbling block is police union chief Craig Bromell, who is under intense pressure from Tory insiders to support Fantino for the job.

The normally outspoken Fantino has been uncharacteristically silent, but insiders say that behind the scenes "Fantino's people" have laid the groundwork for the York chief to lead Canada's largest municipal force.

The Mike Harris government supports Fantino because he is viewed as a strong advocate of its law-and-order policy, a cornerstone of their re-election campaign. Tory insider and lawyer Peter Shoniker is leading the charge for Fantino.

"They want a spokesperson for the largest police force in Canada and they want someone who can actually handle the job," said a source close to the negotiations to bring Fantino to Toronto.

Union support is a big hurdle

The provincial government appoints three of the seven members on Toronto's police services board, which approves the chief's appointment. Three other members are chosen by Toronto City Council from within its ranks. The remaining seat is held by a citizen appointed through a vote by city council. That seat is currently held by law student Sandy Adelson.

Mayor Mel Lastman, who sits on the board, has stated publicly he believes the chief's job should go to someone from within the force. But insiders say Lastman will back Fantino if he wants the job and convince his two council colleagues — board chair Norm Gardner and Olivia Chow — to support his choice.

The board's final vote is expected by the end of this month or early in December.

Sources say Fantino, 57, also has the backing of key city powerbrockers, including Paul Godfrey, president and chief executive officer of Sun Media corporation.

Fantino began his policing career in the late 1960s as a constable with the then Metro Toronto force. He moved through the ranks from a beat officer to the drug squad, the intelligence and homicide units and finally acting staff superintendent.

He left the force after 23 years in 1991, to take the top policing job in London, Ont. In August, 1998, he moved to the chief's post in York Region, where he had to contend with serious underfunding and poor morale.

Observers say that in just 15 months, Fantino has managed to get a significant increase in budget and manpower, expand training programs and improve relations with the rank and file.

Meanwhile, Toronto deputy chiefs Steve Reesor and Mike Boyd, both 47, are each campaigning hard for the top job. Sources say both men have been told Fantino has the inside track.

But Fantino has yet to clear a big hurdle: Winning the support of Bromell's 7,000 member Toronto Police Association.

The police union has stated publicly that it doesn't want a chief from outside and will wage war if one is chosen. Reached last night, Bromell refused to comment.

Boothby leaving with decidedly mixed reviews

The deadline for applying for the $160,000-plus job is today. Sources say there have been few applications to date, part of a Tory strategy to ensure the board will be forced to seek candidates from outside.

So far, publicly, Fantino continues to stick to the line that he's happy heading York's 850-member force and will not officially apply for the Toronto job because of his awful experience in 1994 when — as the leading contender — he lost out to David Boothby after the board became hopelessly deadlocked.

Five years later, Boothby is leaving his post with decidedly mixed reviews. Chosen as a compromise candidate, he failed to take charge of the Toronto force at a time of major changes in structure and policy.

He has also been criticized within the ranks for allowing Bromell and his union to gain too much strength.

Fantino has also had his share of criticism through the years. In 1989, there was an uproar when he released crime statistics related to race, criticism he has steadfastly maintained was totally unfair.

Several years later, gay community organizers in London accused him of singling out homosexuals after an investigation that saw 61 men charged with child exploitation.

An outspoken officer who insists that his senior staff toe the line or go elsewhere. Fantino credits his upbringing for his strong personality.

Born in Italy, he came to Canada when he was 11. He didn't speak any English when he arrived.

"I think the thing that drives me is not the fame or the position," he said when he was appointed chief in York Region. "What drives me is living up to the good fortune that I have been able to obtain."

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

Created: October 11, 2000
Last modified: October 11, 2000
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