Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair reacts at the Toronto Police Services Board meeting at City Hall Friday. (Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun)
TORONTO – Since it was his order to “take back the streets” in the first place, could Chief Bill Blair be brought before Police Act disciplinary hearings that he has directed for those who followed it?
“No one in the TPS, including the chief of police, has immunity,” the chief’s spokesman Mark Pugash said Friday.
Blair said earlier in the day that he’s going to bring in a retired judge and a Crown prosecutor to handle allegations from the debacle that Independent Police Review Director McNeilly called “unlawful” and what Ombudsman Andre Marin described as a weekend that “will live in infamy as a time period where martial law was set in the city of Toronto, leading to the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.”
But the way it’s laid out, every Toronto cop involved in the G20 could face disciplinary hearings except for the very commander who okayed the order that caused the whole mess in the first place.
The chief is, in essence, above this process.
“Certainly those defending the officers charged can subpoena the chief to testify but for a chief to be charged with something under the Police Act it would have to be something recommended by the police board and then referred to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission,” said a former prosecutor of such cases.
The board has not done so.
This has angered some coppers who say they now understand how expendable they are when it comes to a leader saving his own skin.
“It’s not easy to face hearings for following orders that came from the people now recommending we be charged,” he said.
Even though mass arrests for no legal reason are unconstitutional in Canada these officers down the line did, according to McNeilly, what they were ordered yo do by the senior command. Now dozens feeling like scapegoats, both high ranking and low, face misconduct allegations.
The chief had many options on how to deal with this. He could have apologized on behalf of the entire service, as so many just wish he would do to take the glare off his troops.
He could have tendered his own resignation since the buck should stop with him.
“Instead of leading us out of this, he’s throwing us under the bus while those who have retired, or moved on to other services, skate,” said one copper.
But, sources say, Blair feels he was let down by people answering to him.
In bringing in outside adjudicators, it appears, the chief at this point is the only Toronto copper not subject to G20 accountability.
“I am fully committed to holding police officers of any rank accountable for misconduct,” said Blair.
Since the order came out of a meeting he convened how is he held responsible? If other officers can face charges for what came out of that order why not senior commanders who actually made it?
Fair questions since McNeilly in the OIPRD report said the order to “take back” and “own the streets” came out of a meeting Blair called with his Deputy Chief Tony Warr and Supt. Mark Fenton and Supt. Hugh Ferguson.
Earlier Blair has said he was not involved in G20 operational decisions.
In fact, in is appearance on CBC’s The Fifth Estate in February 2011 reporter Gillian Findlay asked Blair, “Was there an order that night that went out that said, look it, people who are out on the street late at night, get them off the street — one way or another?”
The chief told her, “I am not aware of such order and I had not heard that such an order was given, and I certainly didn’t give one.”
That McNeilly’s report states Blair was sitting at the table when this order was given is the kind of thing, the former prosecutor said, a defence lawyer my want to ask of the chief on the stand.
Meanwhile, one officer told me charging his subordinates on his own order may have been his most troublesome G20 decision yet.
That everybody could be responsible except the actual person responsible is not going over well with the troops, many of whom are also unhappy they are not getting more outrage about the double standard from Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack, either.
“We are being sold out at both ends and it’s not going to inspire much loyalty going forward,” said one copper. “It’s not exactly good for morale.”