Friday, September 10, 1993

Rosie DiManno

p. A7.

Radiant glare of badge, halo is just blinding

Reader advisory: This column may be detrimental to the morale of Toronto police officers. Paranoics, regardless of rank should proceed with caution.

That was a damn fine show at yesterday's meeting of the Metro police service board. So much sanctimony, so much piety, so many ringing endorsements of oneself. We were verily blinded by the radiant glare of badge and halo. That aureole of saintly light shone on coppers and commissioners alike, while we -- the grunts and grumps of the media corps, to be precise -- scribbled away in the shadowy corners, like rats scratching at the foundation of some noble institution. EEEK! A COLUMNIST!

There was police Chief William McCormack, so humbly at the disposal of the board, claiming that never, not for one minute, perish the thought would he connive to execute (you should forgive the expression) an end-run on the commissioners by promoting an inappropriate candidate to the sensitive position of trials judge, even though he has the authority to do so, and certainly not while the commissioners are considering the establishment of guidelines for criteria and standards.

And goodness, he wouldn't ever advance the candidacy of an individual who might bring discredit to the police disciplinary procedure. Like say, a staff inspector who has already been admonished by a subpanel of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Service for his careless (best scenario), devious (worst scenario), prosecution of a then police sergeant who extorted sex from a prostitute under threat of arrest.

"In no way whatsoever would I recommend anyone with a soiled badge to assume that position," McCormack assured the board members.

One wonders how dirty you have to get before the chief considers you tainted goods. Besides, McCormack continued, the names he put forward were temporary appointments and he was handcuffed (you should forgive the expression) by that social contract thing and the exit of all those senior officers who skedaddled into early retirement, scolding the board and the crime-wussy media on the way out.

"This is not a promotion, this is an acting position," McCormack insisted, referring to the acting superintendent status of the shiny new, if maybe temporary, trials judge. But he steadfastly argued against a time limit on any such temporary promotions or non-promotions. (Lordy, we're starting to talk like the chief.)

McCormack also neglected to mention -- as board chair Susan Eng reiterated after the commissioners had voted to adopt a report calling for more stringent professional requirements in a trials judge -- that he had appointed Griffiths and two other candidates to permanent positions before Eng reined him in with a "request" to hold off. "They were permanent appointments until I wrote to him," Eng said yesterday. "Now they are interim appointments."

Hard as it is to believe, McCormack's self-righteousness was actually eclipsed by the aggrieved tone of commissioner Arnold Minors, who opened the meeting by reading a five page statement. Apparently, Minors has lately been subjected to racist insults, in part, he believes, because of a recent column by Christie Blatchford in The Toronto Sun.

Blatchford quoted remarks, which Minors had apparently made to a Bermuda newspaper (about blacks shot by Metro cops, and the fear with which white officers approach black males), remarks which some interpreted as white-bashing. "That kind of article in The Toronto Sun reinforces racism and the sometimes hostile and often alien environment in which people of colour live in Ontario, in general, and Metro Toronto, in particular," Minor countered.

While I've already disagreed, in print, with Blatchford's interpretation of Minors view -- she has called for an apology or his resignation from the board -- it does seem well within reason that she has the right to champion her opinions in the pages of the Sun. Racism existed long before Blatchford wrote her Minors column. It is overtly calculating , and dangerous, for Minors to blame a newspaper columnist for a racist society. Nor is it fitting to use one's public office to air a personal dispute. There's a lot of that going around. Et tu, chief ?

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