Now Toronto - JUL 22 - 28, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 47
Keep-the-chief forces rallied at City Hall to bring back ousted top cop Julian Fantino Wednesday (July 21). Although the sentiments expressed in honour of the soon-to-be-departed Julie were sweet, a little perspective is in order. A closer look at Fantino's five years reveals a nightmarish record.
Running roughshod over race relations
• Fantino set the tone for bad relations with the black community shortly after he became chief, when he called criticism of the force "useless rhetoric" – at a conference on alternatives to lethal use of force, no less.
• Fantino sent all the wrong signals when he moved the force's highest-ranking black officer, Keith Forde, out of public complaints, a section he was assigned to clean up, and into community policing, a low priority for the chief.
• At the height of the uproar over the shooting of several young black men, Fantino repeatedly blamed "certain elements" in the black community, not his own force, for failing to rein in the violence.
• Oh yeah, and the racial profiling thing.
War on protestors
Under Fantino, the cavalry, aka the force's mounted unit, went from spot duty in parks to regular fixture at protests and on city streets.
• So deep runs Fantino's detestation for the anti-Iraq-war crowd that he tried to strong-arm the police services board into requiring groups to seek permission from police for rallies – and had the audacity to offer, in one report, that "a problem is now arising where portions of the public believe that Dundas Square is a public space."
• Also anxious early in his tenure to make his mark by cracking down on raves, he went so far as to try to pass off weapons seized in nightclubs as having been seized at raves.
The shameful opportunist
• In perhaps the lowest of a series of low moves, the chief used the murder of Holly Jones to bolster his calls for closed-circuit cameras on street corners and to fuel a crime-wave panic to influence budget deliberations with city council.
Two-faced on community relations
• For all his overtures to the gay community, it was under his watch that coppers from downtown's 51 Division were permitted to run wild at lesbian hangout the Pussy Palace with questionable liquor licence charges. A court found the coppers violated privacy rights when they barged in on naked patrons. The chief was conspicuously silent when Councillor Kyle Rae was successfully sued for libel for calling the aforementioned cops "cowboys."
Police accountability gap
• Despite his talk about honesty and integrity, Fantino expressed "disappointment" when manslaughter charges were laid against four police officers in the beating death of mental health patient Otto Vass.
• A veil of secrecy has shrouded internal police discipline process under Fantino, as evidenced by Councillor Bas Balkissoon's very public resignation from the police services board when public complaints about police conduct that he brought personally to the force were dismissed or not handled at all.
A law unto himself
• Fantino's disdain for civilian oversight is well documented. While at the helm, he tried to slip changes through the police services board that would have seen him unilaterally decide when and under what circumstances the police watchdog special investigation unit (SIU) is called in to probe incidents involving police. Now, that would have kept coppers on the straight and narrow.
• Community policing? It's under Fantino's watch that most community police liaison committees were axed. It's no coincidence either that his appointment, courtesy of Tory friends at Queen's Park, coincided with tougher laws against panhandlers and squeegee kids.
• In concrete terms, Fantino axed foot patrols in troubled areas like Regent Park from 25 officers to 10 – even while residents were pleading for a more pronounced police presence.
• The chief has eagerly pursued child-porn charges, but gave the runaround to a working group of women concerned about the operations of the force's sexual assault unit, despite 57 recommendations in a city auditor's report.
• Were Fantino to continue at the helm, the force might soon be taking direction from the corporations with the fattest wallets. He floated a plan for a "charitable foundation" made up of corporations to bankroll his sought-after helicopter and other pet projects.
Thin-skinned and vindictive
• The chief called for an advertiser boycott of NOW for running a photo of his Woodbridge home and asking, Should the chief of police be required to live in the city he polices?