Tuesday, September 4, 1992
Will police board now get tough?In any police force worth its salt, the people at the top set the tone by their professionalism, candor and respect for principle.
That was the basic message of the $1 million public inquiry by lawyer Frank D'Andrea that found fault with the way the internal affairs unit of Metro Police handled two police misconduct cases.
In reacting Friday to the report, Chief William McCormick had "no quarrel" with the recommendations, adding he accepted full responsibility for the leadership of the force.
On the surface, that may have seemed a straightforward acknowledgment of serious mistakes. But the chief sent out a mixed message that is profoundly disturbing.
At his news conference, McCormack agreed with D'Andrea that the secret agreement with disgraced constable Gordon Junger was "reprehensible, or whatever word you wish to use... but I also say that it was done in good faith according to the day."
In the chief's eyes, the agreement to destroy physical evidence, grant immunity from criminal prosecution and provide Junger with a letter of good standing was basically a procedural error.
To McCormack, the whole unsavory deal was put together by "policemen (who) are not lawyers, so therefore they saw this as being innocuous as it was described to me, and he (Junger) was resigning from the force, end of story."
Notwithstanding the chief's explanations, D'Andrea's report exposes glaring inconsistencies in McCormack's position:
The chief attacks a "misconception" that there was a secret deal with Junger, even though the document called for secrecy and was agreed to by the force. That conflicts with D'Andrea's conclusion about how the chief reacted when he first learned of the deal's specifics:
"He did not advise the (Police Services) Board of its existence. The Chief and the force's legal adviser testified they recognized the potential for public criticism of the force. The Chief decided to keep the agreement secret."
McCormack still maintains that his officers acted in good faith to get rid of a bad apple as quickly as possible. He still doesn't appear to grasp D'Andrea's admonishment that "All of these excuses amount to the end justifying the means. They are totally unacceptable."
McCormack now says that internal affairs "adhered to the circumstances of the day." That doesn't wash. Surely, as recently as 1989, police had the same obligation they have now to act fairly, openly and with respect for the rule of law.
Those inconsistencies, and others, add up to a serious continuing attitude problem in the chief's office.
McCormack still fails to distinguish between procedure and principle or acknowledge the extent of his wrongs: "Well, I don't think the report says that I did anything wrong."
And that's a serious failing in a chief of police.
All the more reason for the Metro Police Services Board, chaired by Susan Eng, to show that it has the will to protect the public by cleaning up the shop and serving as an effective watchdog.
It's time to show some teeth.
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Last modified: December 12, 1998
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