Without Fear or Favour: The Life and Politics of an Urban Cop
By Bill McCormack
Published in April 1999 by Stoddart Publishing
Bob Rae's Kind of People
In September 1990 the Ontario NDP under Bob Rae trounced David Peterson's Liberals in the provincial election. With 130 seats, the NDP commanded an overwhelming majority in the legislature. There was nothing to stop them from imposing on the province's forces their police reform package, the most notable elements of which were race-based hiring and promotion practices and mandatory reporting by officers who unholstered their service weapon.
Susan Eng was Bob Rae's kind of people controversial, ideologically driven, and stubbornly resistant to anyone else's point of view. June Rowlands term as chair of the Police Services Board would end during the first week of May. With Rae's personal endorsement, and the declared support of Roy Williams, and of course of Laura Rowe and Father Massey Lombardi, whom Rae would install on the board the very day that the vote on a new chair would take place, it was certain that Eng would replace Rowlands at the May 16, 1991, board meeting. Eng had no experience having responsibility for something as large and diverse as the police force, an organization with an annual budget of half a billion dollars that employed 7,000 people. This was stretching the Peter Principle to new and ridiculous lengths!
When they heard about Rae's plan to manoeuvre Susan Eng into June Rowlands chair, many of Metro's politicians were furious. Scarborough mayor Joyce Trimmer could have spit rust! She said Eng was nothing but a headline hound. Mayor Mel Lastman of North York said Rae's plan to install as chair a person who was so overtly anti-police was "practically evil." But it didn't matter one whit to Bob Rae what Toronto's elected officials thought. He and his government had their own anti-police agenda to implement.
The Toronto Star, which was smugly claimed by its publishers to be the real government of Toronto, touted Susan Eng as the next chair of the Metro Toronto Police Services Board as early as March. In a front-page story, she served notice that when she took over from June Rowlands, whom she derided as ineffective and a "captive" of the force's command officers, things were certainly going to be different. She took direct aim at me when she declared that "they [the police] have to know that someone who has the mandate to set the policy agenda actually will enforce it by insisting and directing that the chief will do x and y." She went on to say that "people have to get used to knowing that I am the boss," and that she intended to demonstrate at the outset that she was in "charge."
At about this time, the NDP was parading before the public the stalking horse it had constructed over the Gordon Junger investigation and resignation. As a member of the board, Eng had been provided by me with the essential facts of the case and its disposition. Not only that, but my briefing to the board had been recorded by the force's videotape unit. Nevertheless the soon-to-be chair claimed that public confidence had been shaken by the "secret manner" in which Junger had been dealt with by Internals and me. This characterization was entirely false: there had been nothing "secret" about it. It had been my duty to inform the board of Junger's part-time career as a male prostitute and of the manner in which the force had got rid of him, and that's exactly what I had done. Eng claimed that the Junger case had been mishandled, and that the force was in need of a management overhaul and of civilian scrutiny and control.
Bob Rae knew that Eng supported most, if not all, of his party's police "reform" package, including mandatory reporting of each and every time an officer unholstered his gun. To those who knew nothing of policing, this policy may have appeared reasonable and progressive. But to anyone who has ever been a street cop, it was a dangerous move that would undermine public safety.
Police officers of all ranks throughout the province were extremely worried that the NDP would make mandatory reporting the law. The ones who would pay the biggest price for such a wrong headed change in legislation were the officers who patrolled the tough urban neighborhoods where armed drug addicts and pushers lurked and violence was a way of life. Self-preservation dictated that, as they prowled the dark alleys of these high-risk areas, they often had to have their service weapons unholstered and at the ready. To do otherwise could be fatal. If the NDP had their way, night after night these officers would be obliged to report that they'd unholstered their weapons. Undue concern over having to file a written report could make a police officer pause long enough to lose his life or to fail to react quickly enough to save the life of someone else. These reports would be kept in an officer's personal file, and as long as the officer continued to draw high-risk assignments, the reports would accumulate, doubtless giving the false impression that he was "gun-happy" a liability to the force, unworthy of promotion, and a risk to the public. Defence lawyers, prosecuting attorneys, or lawyers trying a civil suit would be free to subpoena such records for use against an officer testifying in court. The net result of this ill-conceived policy would be that good police officers drawing the toughest assignments of all would be penalized for continually risking their necks in some of the most dangerous corners of the city, while the politicians who planned to place this yoke on their shoulders would sleep uncaring and safe in their beds.
Police Association president Art Lymer and I both knew that the police point of view needed to be explained to the public, and we did our best to make it known in the press. Nothing of what we had to say made any impression on Bob Rae or Solicitor General Allan Pilkey. They had never answered a bank alarm, responded to an "armed and dangerous" domestic dispute, or walked alone up a pitch-black alley at three in the morning. They had never had the boots put to them by a gang caught in the act of breaking into a factory, or had a gun stuck in their faces by a bandit who had nothing to lose by using it. Yet they were willing to expose to unnecessary risk the lives of those who had.
Eng never seemed to understand that it was her job to broker the broad concerns of all of Metro's 2.5 million citizens, including the police themselves, before the board, rather than advocating on behalf of a handful of vehement and elitist agitators, militants, and pseudo-reformers.
As chair, Ms Eng was supposed to share with other board members the responsibility of fashioning broad policy objectives for the force. But that did not always happen. In the words of Norm Gardner, who was deputy chair of the board during Eng's reign, "She is a loner." He also complained that she failed to let other board members know when she planned to leave town and where she could be reached in the event of an emergency requiring a quick response from the board. Ms Eng kept her temper in check whenever members of the public or the news media were around but, when the board met in camera, if she wasn't getting her way, look out!
After Eng's appointment, I soon found out that my old ways of working with the chair's office were not going to cut it under the new regime. During June Rowland's tenure I would go to her office a couple of times a week and summarize the "majors" the big or newsworthy cases that different squads were working on. The Hold-Up Squad might have kicked in a door and rounded up an armed gang, or the Drug Squad might have taken down a cocaine ring, or perhaps the Fraud Squad had put a halt to a major credit card scam. I also kept Rowlands apprised of any disciplinary cases Internal Affairs was working on (and that included the Junger case). As chair, she had a right to know what our officers were doing, good or bad, and she needed to be able to respond in an informal manner when the media came calling about a high-profile case.
When Susan Eng took over, I continued these sessions despite her publicly expressed antagonism towards me, but I soon regretted this decision. She made a practice of challenging almost everything I told her, repeatedly questioning the grounds that various squads might have had to make their arrests, obtain search warrants, or conduct wire-taps. From the depths of her non-existent policing experience she would explain to me how certain investigations ought to have been conducted and theorize on how investigators might improve their tactics in the future. When the topic was an internal disciplinary matter, she would often imply that I was holding back something, or that somehow the fix was in and the officer under investigation was escaping with too light a punishment. Our uneasy interchanges further convinced me what I already knew: when it came to police work, Eng didn't know her elbow from her ear and would have been well advised to keep her theories and suspicions to herself. Frequently when I went to her office I was subjected to a tedious lecture on how police work ought to be done. Rather than continue to beat my head against a stone wall, I soon stopped briefing her and sent one of my deputies in my place. who says rank doesn't have its privileges?
Eng wasn't above playing favourites with a chosen few of the force's command officers. She cultivated friendships with those who were only too glad to provide her with information and curry her favour in the hope it would pay off when I eventually retired. she also unwisely sought the counsel of a handful of people whose hatred of the police force was well publicized. Their preoccupation with race-based issues, to the exclusion of all else, became the Police Services Board's agenda. Avvy Go of the CCNC and Dudley Laws of the BADC constantly had her ear, while the police officers accused by extremists of being "racists" and "murderers" did not. Another strong ally was lawyer Peter Maloney, who had helped Eng to get on the board in the first place. The two were frequent companions and used to meet regularly to discuss the force's business. She'd bounce ideas and problems off him, and he would tell her how to organize her thinking strategies. Those of us who knew Maloney were deeply concerned about the influence he seemed to have over her.
Though I was becoming the primary focus of Susan's hostility, she reserved some of her venom for her kinsman Sergeant Ben Eng, who stood in heroic opposition to her at virtually every turn. Newspaper stories of her mounting anger with him were a source of embarrassment to the Chinese of Toronto. When Ben's contribution to the community and his achievements on the force were celebrated at a banquet held at the International restaurant, Susan and her family gave great offence by failing to attend. Ben's father, Hughes, a scrupulously fair and diplomatic man, were distressed by the rift he saw growing between his son and jut nui Susan, but for the sake of the clan and community harmony he was reluctant to take her to task. In any event, when Ben's grandmother died, Hughes telephoned Susan's mother, Chuey Eng, to advise her that she and her family should not come to the funeral for there were simply too many family members who were not ready to forgive Susan for trying to have Ben disciplined.
At 3:30 on the morning of Saturday, May 2, 1992, a crack dealer by the name of Ray Lawrence was shot to death by 14 Division plainclothes officer Bob Rice. Lawrence and two other men suspected of having a large stash of crack were approached by Rice and a couple of other officers in the backyard of a west-end Toronto home. When they saw the police, who were acting on an informant's tip, the suspects fled. Two got away, but the officers were able to corner Lawrence in the carport of a house on St. Clarens Avenue, where he pulled out a knife and held them at bay. Before they could disarm him, he crashed through a fence and was on the run again. Constable Rice charged after him, leaping over fences and ducking clotheslines until, in the fourth backyard, the drug pusher turned on the officer, brandishing his knife once again. Rice tried to back away, but bumped into the fence he had just vaulted. With his back pressed to the fence, the officer fired a warning shot in the air and ordered Lawrence to stay where he was and to drop the knife. Lawrence ignored Rice and kept on coming. The officer fired twice, and Lawrence dropped to the ground, clutching his chest. As officers and paramedics were loading him onto a stretcher, they found in his possession three stolen wallets, each containing identification in someone else's name and a large sum of money, a quantity of crack cocaine, and the military-style knife with which he'd threatened Constable Rice and the other officers. Lawrence was dead on arrival at the hospital.
Immediately civilian investigators from Ontario's civilian-led Special Investigations Unit took over the case, with help from the Homicide Squad. The accounts of all the plainclothes officers matched perfectly with the statements tendered by a number of independent witnesses. The SIU investigation soon revealed that Constable Rice had acted in defence of his own life. Accordingly, no charges against him were warranted.
Details of the case were released to the news media. The fact that the investigation had been placed under the control of an independent civilian body, that it had been thorough and impartial, that independent witnesses backed the police version of events 100 per cent, and that no wrongdoing whatsoever could be attributed to any of the officers involved didn't matter one bit. All that mattered to the news media was that Raymond Lawrence happened to be a black man.
"Black man shot dead by undercover officer," ran the Toronto Star's front-page headline the next day not "Man shot dead." No, it was "Black man shot dead " And on the front page of the Toronto Sun, "Metro Cop Kills Black Suspect." When will the news media be called to account for the pernicious way in which they continually incite racism?
"Racists!" "Murderers!" "We demand justice!" "Get rid of the SIU!" "Fire McCormack!" screamed the black militants. The Black Action Defence Committee called for a demonstration on Monday, May 4, outside of the United States Consulate on University Avenue. They chose the American consulate in response to the recent acquittal of the white Los Angeles policemen who had so savagely beaten Rodney King, a black man. Toronto would be their Los Angeles and Raymond Lawrence would be their Rodney King.
"I'll work to find a solution to the scourge of racism!" Premiere Bob Rae solemnly promised the militants he rushed to meet with as soon as he heard news about the shooting. His statement seemed to imply that a decent young copper whose personal file contained a number of commendations for exemplary community service was a racist, and that the bandit who had threatened his life was a victim.
Federal justice minister Kim Campbell wasn't about to let Ontario's premier grab all the headlines. She told reporters that in response to the shootings, she was speeding up changes she'd been planning to the Criminal Code with respect to the use of deadly force by police. In doing so, she gave the impression that by preventing a no-good, rotten drug dealer from disembowelling him with a knife, Constable Rice had done something wrong.
The BADC's demonstration erupted into a bloody riot. Innocent people were beaten up by the rampaging gangs of punks, both black and white, who surged up and down Yonge Street, smashing plate glass windows and looting stores. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage was done. Rocks were thrown at officers, and two police horses were struck and injured, one of them taking a stone square in the eye. The following day, Dudley Laws and the rest of his BADC yahoos feigned innocence. They claimed they were shocked that a peaceful demonstration could have become so explosive.
Rather than apologize to the people of Metropolitan Toronto for pandering to the black militants who had lit the fuse that started the riot, Bob Rae announced that he had hired former NDP leader Stephen Lewis to look into why the rampage had happened. Instead of placing the blame at the feet of the BADC, where it belonged, Lewis blamed the sorry episode on poor relations between the police and the city's visible minorities. Had I been a member of a minority community, I would have regarded Lewis's comments as a slap in the face. He was identifying the hard-working, law-abiding citizens who make up the majority of all minority communities with the louts who had ransacked Yonge Street. Here was Susan Eng's chance, as a member of a visible minority, and a s the chair of the Police Services Board, to set Lewis straight. Did she do it? Not a chance!
A few weeks later, Solicitor General Allan Pilkey set up something called the Committee on Public and Officer Safety, composed of two police officers and of people representing the BADC and the Metro Toronto Coalition on Police Reform, both blatantly anti-police groups. It was this committee that came up with the new use-of-force guidelines, which included the requirement for police officers to make a report every time they unholstered their firearm. Pilkey adopted the new guidelines holus-bolus, indicating that they would be the basis for legislative changes he intended to propose in the new year. More as a political nicety than as a genuine exercise in consultation, he canvassed every police force in the province, asking for our opinions on the proposed changes. Most police chiefs recognized Pilkey's survey for the cynical political ploy it was. Nevertheless, we went through the motions, telling him what we thought and never believing for a moment that this government would change its course.
By this time, Susan Eng had been able to get the Police Services Board to adopt virtually identical changes to Metro's use-of-force policies, though their decision was by no means unanimous. New board policy notwithstanding, Deputy Chief Wally Tyrell responded to Pilkey's survey on Metro's behalf. When she found out Tyrell had written a letter critical of the government's intended legislation, Susan Eng chastised me roundly at a board meeting, saying I should have cleared the letter with the board (meaning her) first. I told her that it was the prerogative of the force's senior command to provide an honest opinion on matters that were well within its authority. In fact, it was our duty, especially since we, like any other force in Ontario, had been asked to do so by the province's top law enforcement official. I later told reporters that Eng had been "way out of line" for criticizing me over Wally's letter.
By fall, front-line officers on the force had had a bellyful! They were sick to death of a Police Services Board chair who listened to militants but not to them, and were furious about the board's new weapons policy, They were fed up with the province's Special Investigations Unit, which they saw as politically driven and inept. They wanted it disbanded. At a news conference held on October 5, 1992, Police Association president Art Lymer announced that his members would launch what he called a "job action." They would refuse to wear their regulation cap and identification numbers, and they would not hand out parking tickets or write summonses for minor traffic offences. "We'll hit the NDP government in the pocketbook!" he said.
Outside the association building, where the news conference took place, reporters interviewed a number of officers, including my son Bill. Of the SIU Bill said, "Over 2,000 guns have been confiscated so far this year in Metro Toronto. We're not afraid of being investigated [by the SIU], but we want the investigations to be impartial." He was echoing the thoughts of his fellow officers that, with so many bandits using guns, being a street copper in Metro Toronto was becoming an increasingly dangerous occupation. The chance of having to draw and fire one's service weapon in the line of duty was rising with each passing year. If officers were placed in the position of having to use deadly force, they wanted assurances that they would be treated fairly by competent investigators.
That same day, Susan Eng called a news conference of her own at headquarters to respond to the MTPA. She told the reporters that "though the job action is a serious breach of discipline, it is nevertheless a demand to be heard by the front-line officers." What unmitigated hypocrisy! Eng had shown very little interest in what police officers had to say. Did she really think the rank and file would be so foolish as to believe she'd listen to them now?
She didn't keep up the pretence for long, telling reporters in the next sentence that the new unholstering rules would become the law of the province on January 1, 1993, and that the police had better get used to the idea. She warned that, as chief, I would be expected to ensure full compliance with the law by the force's rank and file. She said the province's Special Investigations Unit was there to stay and insisted that just like the video cameras that had been installed in police station booking rooms, the unit provided police officers with protection against false accusations by those they arrested. She complained that many of the board's actions had been misinterpreted by the force's front-line officers "because the board can't speak directly to them." This was clearly a backhanded reference to me for publicly disagreeing with the use-of-force policy changes. To make certain that I didn't miss the point, she said, "It is the responsibility of the chief to enforce board policy." She concluded her remarks by trying to distance herself from the controversy she had helped to create by saying , "The salvo [job action] that the association has fired is at the provincial government, and we [the board] are kind of in the middle."
Though I sympathized with my officer's protest, their refusal to wear the proper uniform put me in a difficult position. As chief I was obliged to issue an ultimatum: wear the regulation cap and identification badge or face charges under the Police Act. I met behind closed doors with several hundred officers at the association's building in the northeast corner of the city. I made it clear that they had my sympathy, but that my hands would be tied if they continued to defy my direct order that they report for duty in the proper uniform. My sons Bill, Jamie, and Michael, and my son in-law, Max Carter, were in the room. The job action had created a dilemma for them too. They believed in what the association was trying to accomplish but, understanding the anguish I was going through, they could not bring themselves to remove their numbers or to wear ball caps. As a compromise, they kept their numbers on and went bare-headed. The officers they worked with understood their predicament and left them alone. When I had finished speaking, I received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.
However, there were a few officers present dyed-in-the-wool association men who didn't think too much of what I'd had to say. One of them made the mistake of saying so without first checking to see who might overhear him.
"Ah, this guy's nothing' but an asshole!" he growled. He turned his back to the front of the room where I stood to find my son Michael standing two feet away all 300 well-muscled pounds of him!
"Shit, Mike, I didn't know you were I didn't mean your old man was a "
Michael glowered down at the man, who hung his head and slunk away without uttering another word. To this day, he gives Michael a wide berth.
A week after the job action had begun, Susan Eng hinted that I ought to resign because the rank and file had continued to defy my direct order to wear the regulation uniform. It was obvious to everybody that she, the Rae government, and the Toronto Star assumed that this issue would overwhelm me, that the officer's refusal to obey my order was tantamount to a vote of non-confidence and left me no choice but to leave my job. Her comments elicited an angry response from association president Art Lymer, who demanded that Eng resign from the board. When the press came to me for a response, I told them Eng's comments were confusing. "She and the board have only given me a vote of confidence for my handling of the job action and now she seems to want me to resign."
Fellow board member Norm Gardner, who I knew fully supported me, went after Eng in the papers, calling her comments "inflammatory." He said that Eng had antagonized our officers even more by suggesting that my head might roll. Gardner was right. Eng's words were like gasoline on a fire. Overnight support for the protest, which, up to that point, had been confined mainly to Metro Toronto, spread across the province to an additional 18,000 police officers. Their solidarity became known as the Blue Ribbon Campaign and culminated in a mass demonstration by thousands of police officers from all over the province, on the front lawn of Queen's Park on October 28.
By November 2, senior officers had issued in excess of 15,000 reprimands to officers under their command, and there was no sign that the job action was losing steam. Neither the association nor the provincial government had any intention of backing down. For several days, Art Lymer had been unsuccessfully demanding a meeting with the premier. I was caught in the middle, and my position was becoming more precarious with each passing day. It was beginning to look as though Susan Eng would have her wish, and that I'd be forced to fall on my sword. Art and I tried to talk Allan Pilkey into modifying the use-of-force regulations, but he wouldn't budge.
When things were looking their bleakest, I got a terrific shot in the arm from a good and faithful friend. Sam Pasternak. He and Norm Gardner had organized a memorial service for the military and civilian casualties of both world wars and the Korean and Vietnam wars. I was invited to attend and to receive a distinguished service award from the Jewish War Veterans. After the ceremony, I told reporters that even though I could not condone insubordination among my officers, I recognized the profound frustration and lack of trust they had for certain members of the Police Services Board and the NDP government.
On November 6, one month after the job action began, I was successful in obtaining a court injunction to bring it to an end. It had cost the province approximately half a million dollars in lost revenue from traffic tickets, and Metro Toronto about a quarter of a million dollars in lost parking ticket revenue. In his ruling, Judge Richard Trainor said that although he was "sympathetic to police concerns about government use-of-force policies, there were other ways to make their point." Judge Trainor also had a warning for Rae, Pilkey, and Eng: "Those on the front line should have a constructive view of what is safe and what is unsafe about legislation. Their views should carry weight."
The job action may have ended, but I still had to deal with the Police Act charges of insubordination that had been laid against 3,000 Metro officers from constable up to staff sergeant. How long would it take to dispose of 3,000 not guilty pleas? How much of the force's budget would be wasted taking these cases to trial and at what cost to morale?
I called Art Lymer and all association representatives from each station, and any other officer who wished to attend, to a meeting at headquarters. "I have always told you," I said to them, "that I would consult you first about any decisions I am thinking of making, and this is no exception. I have a proposal for you. I want you to think about it and to discuss it with the men and women at your stations, and in two days I want your answer.
"Because you disobeyed a direct order, I have no choice but to enforce the Ontario Police Act and make certain that all charges under the act are properly dealt with. They cannot go unnoticed and unpunished, and you all know that. But I am the chief, and I decide what the penalty will be.
"Here's what I propose. Every one of you has contributed time to the force. You make an arrest late in your shift and end up working half an hour extra, but you don't put in for overtime. You sometimes get involved in something when you're off duty, and you don't claim that time either. And I know lots of you represent the force as community volunteers. When you think about it, all that unclaimed service really adds up in the course of a year.
"I am going to assess every officer who disobeyed my direct order eight hours of this unclaimed time served. And I am going to exercise my prerogative and remove the documentation after one year."
I did not have to wait the two days to get my answer. My proposition was accepted unanimously!
The Toronto Star's lead editorial roasted me for being too lenient on delinquent officers, and Susan Eng was beside herself with rage. She and her NDP cronies had utterly failed to drive a wedge between me and my officers. The public clearly sided with the police and blamed the provincial government for creating the entire fiasco. Nevertheless the NDP cabinet forged ahead and on January 1, 1993, Allan Pilkey's new use-of-force regulation became law.
After the blue Ribbon Campaign, Susan Eng became even more entrenched and isolated from the members of the force than she'd been before. The episode that most clearly demonstrated how much Metro officers had grown to hate Susan Eng was the reception she received late one night in mid-June 1994 when she arrived at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre where a wounded Constable Todd Bayliss lay dying after being shot by drug dealer Clinton Junior Gayle. Gayle had previously been ordered deported to Jamaica for criminal behavior, but was still on the loose while his case went round and round in that centrifuge known as Canada's immigration system.
I had contacted Eng at her home to inform her that Bayliss and his partner, Mike Leone, had been shot by Gayle. Though Leone's wounds were not life-threatening, Bayliss's were grave.
"What do you think I should do?" she asked.
"It's entirely up to you but I think that since you're chair of the board, the press would expect to see you here," I responded.
When she stepped out of the cruiser at the hospital, a group of off-duty officers who had set up a vigil outside the hospital began to boo and jeer. The appearance in their time of grief of such relentless and self-serving opponent of everything they stood for was more than they could stomach.
Eng was visibly shaken as she ducked into the building. I don't think she truly realized until that moment how much she disgusted the men and women of the force. I had no choice but to apologize to her on their behalf, then ask her to excuse me while I went outside to talk to the enraged crowd. No one uttered a peep as I approached.
"I know how badly you feel," I commiserated. "But I am asking you to restrain yourselves from crying out in that fashion against Ms Eng again. I am asking you to do it for me."
Eng later left the hospital without incident and was driven to 12 Division, where, in her presence, the officers who had worked alongside Todd Bayliss were told he had not survived his injuries. Men and women wept openly and comforted one another as Eng stood in the corner of the guardroom watching them impassively. Later she was also taken to the scene of the shooting. Standing outside the barrier erected by the Homicide Squad, she began to shiver. I offered her my suit jacket and she draped it over her shoulders.
If I had thought that having been witness to the anguish of the Bayliss family and of Todd's fellow officers would give Susan Eng a keener appreciation for the danger police officers face every day, I was sorely mistaken. In a day or two, it was business as usual for her. Events like the job action and the murder of a police officer were nothing to her allies than interruptions in the master plan to "reform" the Metro Toronto Police Force and get rid of me in the process.
|More Jane Doe...|
Created: October 7, 2000
Last modified: February 22, 2001
Jane Doe, c/o Walnut Society
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710