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The Fantino Question
15/07/2004

I wrote something about Chief Fantino back when his contract was not renewed by the Toronto Police Services Board, but I didn't end up finishing it because the federal election was taking up most of my blogging time. I also didn't have a whole lot to say about it.

Toronto blogger David Artemiw started a "Keep Chief Fantino" website where he was collecting signatures in support of the chief. He has now put that aside for the Keep The Chief site that was organized by a group of right-wing City Councillors.

It seems to me that, on the surface, there was nothing inappropriate about the way the TPS Board handled itself. Deciding whether or not to renew the Chief's contract is exactly what the board is supposed to be for. That's their job and their mandate. There's nothing unusual about their decision, either, since there have now been several one-term chiefs in a row.

That's not to say that I couldn't sympathize with the Fantino supporters if they were making a good argument. The problem is, neither of the pro-Fantino websites make an argument. Neither of them tell me why Julian Fantino is so excellent that we need to second-guess the Police Services Board. They seem to be relying on whatever popularity Fantino may have.

I guess my problem is that I don't read the Toronto Sun. I'm sure they'd have an argument they could put forward. But, I'd rather see an explanation from a credible source.

Now, I am intrigued that Royson James calls Fantino "the best chief since Harold Adamson, who served into the 1970s", but I'd still like to hear more, especially in the face of the detailed critcisms that do exist. For example, on the first page of comments on Artemiw's Fantino website, you will see that a "Craig S" wrote:

Julian Fantino's record:

  • corruption (McCormick, 51 Division, etc.),
  • blatant disregard of legitimate concerns and questions about police behaviour,
  • actively undermining the principle that the police are ultimately accountable to the public,
  • blatant disregard of the principle that the police force must be politically neutral,
  • attempting to drive out members of the Police Services Board by any means necessary, ultimately *creating* the dysfunction that his supporters complain about.

Fantino has, in a nutshell, taken the police force's organizational culture of "we are above the law" to unprecedented heights during his term. This is why he needs to go.

It may not be all true, but I need to hear the counter-argument.

But both James and Eye Weekly make the point that Fantino has run into trouble for his inappropriate political meddling. In fact, I wonder if it is his solid support for Conservatives like Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and John Tory that is now producing the backing for him today. That, and the right's desperate need to find some way to fight back against the Mayor's popularity and strength.


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