Monday, November 29, 1999

Jennifer Quinn and John Duncanson

p. A1.

Fantino is named city's new police chief

Announcement comes after day of interviews with candidates

Julian Fantino was named Toronto's new police chief last night, and immediately pledged to work with the community and police union.

The vote is being hailed a decisive victory for those fighting to restore power and prestige to the police chief's office.

"I realize that I was not the first choice of 100 per cent of each and every community group," Fantino, surrounded by his family, said last night at police headquarters. "I want you to know that I want to work with everyone.

"I am committed to ensuring that there are no barriers between the community and its police service."

Fantino, currently chief of York Region, takes command in March, after the retirement of Chief David Boothby. The chief-designate said he spoke with Boothby, who led the service for the past five years, after he was offered the position last night.

"I asked him what size shoes he wore," Fantino said. "They're big."

The Toronto police services board spent a gruelling 11 hours interviewing the four final candidates for the $160,000-plus job, but decided on Fantino after just one vote. The Star first reported on Nov. 5, that Fantino would become Toronto's police chief.

Experience put Fantino ahead

Five of the seven board members, including Mayor Mel Lastman and police chair Norm Gardner, cast their ballots in favour of Fantino.

Only city councillor Olivia Chow and citizen member Sandy Adelson voted against the popular Fantino. "I preferred an internal candidate, but he is the chief-designate and I will work with him," Chow said.

"All three internal candidates were really, really good," Adelson added. "But I hope for the best for Mr. Fantino."

After his failed bid to get the job in 1994, Fantino made it clear that he would never apply again and would only sit for an interview if asked.

Just before 4 p.m. yesterday, Fantino ended the guessing game when he showed up at the Bay St. offices of the headhunter agency hired to come up with a short list of candidates for the police board.

After a two-hour interview, Fantino left, saying the decision was out of his hands and that he was glad to have had the chance to sell his vision of policing the city of Toronto.

Fantino held the rank of superintendent when he left Toronto to become the chief of the London, Ont., force in 1991. He took the job as York Region chief just over a year ago.

"I think Julian is going to make a great chief," said police board vice-chair Jeff Lyons. "This guy is not only a leader of Toronto, he's known throughout Canada as a great police leader."

The other three candidates considered for the job yesterday were all longtime Toronto officers: deputy chiefs Steve Reesor and Mike Boyd and Superintendent Bill Blair.

Board members said all four candidates gave excellent answers during their lengthy interviews but, in the end, Fantino's years of experience and his standing as one of the leading police administrators in the country put him over the top.

In the run-up to the selection of the new chief, Fantino played coy about whether or not he was going to throw his hat in the ring.

When the deadline for applicants came on Nov. 5, Fantino's name was not among the 11 who had sent in resumes.

Behind the scenes there was intense lobbying by Tories and Fantino supporters to ensure he would win the day.

The headhunting firm contracted to come up with a short list approached Fantino even though he had not applied.

By mid-November, everything appeared to be in place for Fantino to win the coveted post, but when news broke of backroom wheeling and dealing several community groups came out against him. They accused the outspoken police leader of not being sensitive when it came to gays and lesbians and the black community.

A coalition of community groups held a news conference denouncing Fantino, but he met the attacks with strong silence.

Last night, Fantino addressed some of his remarks to those groups, saying he wanted to speak with them about "perceived differences." His speech seemed to signal a continued commitment to community policing, a philosophy first implemented by Boothby.

"I say perceived differences because I don't believe that there exist any real difference between my vision and that of various community groups," he said. "I wish to send a message of dignity and respect to all citizens and groups, and I am hopeful that all citizens and groups will respond in kind."

He said he intends to set up advisory committees, which will have representatives "from each and every race, creed, colour and sexual orientation."

Toronto police officers were elated last night at the news.

"He's got experience. He's got groundwork laid out in front of him from London and York," said 12 Division staff Sergeant Robert Simpson. Sergeant Don Cann of 33 Division in North Toronto called Fantino an "excellent pick."

"He holds people accountable," said Cann, who worked with Fantino at the morality bureau.

Despite their praise for Fantino, officers are looking to him to bring some changes to the force.

"I'd like to see more emphasis go on officers on the street," said 53 Division staff sergeant Robert Lofkrantz, who has worked with Fantino several times over 30 years of the force. He's hoping Fantino will bring in more officers and vehicles.

In the final days of the race, media leaks about the six people shortlisted caused consternation among board members.

Chow, the newest board member, held a news conference Friday calling on her colleagues to abort this weekend's vote, saying the entire selection process had been compromised because of the media leaks.

But the board decided to continue, and began interviewing the final candidates yesterday morning at the search firm's offices. Calgary police chief Christine Silerberg and OPP Chief Superintendent Bill Currie had dropped out.

The first to be interviewed was Deputy Chief Mike Boyd, who many said was the front-runner if Fantino wasn't in the picture.

Deputy Chief Reesor sat for his interview in the afternoon. Then about 3:45 p.m., the man who has publicly said little about the Toronto job showed up to make his pitch.

He was followed by Superintendent Bill Blair.

Then the board got down to the business of deciding who should get the job. Fantino may not have all the support he would like among community groups, but he has gained one important ally in recent weeks.

The Toronto police union, which said less than a month ago that it would go to war with the command if Fantino were given the job, has met secretly with him in recent days to discuss mutual goals.

"He asked for the meeting," said union president Craig Bromell. "We met, and by the end of the meeting I felt he was the right person for the job."

Margaret Black, mayor of King Township and head of the York Region Police Association, said Fantino called her with the news last night.

"I congratulated him," Black said in a telephone interview. "I said I wished him the best, and I told him that we would miss him in York."

Black said it was an emotional moment for her, after working with Fantino for almost 15 months.

Toronto Police clippings… [Fiona Stewart]

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