No surprise: OPP Commish backs Blair re: Rob Ford’s 911 Calls

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[Caution: strong language.]

By Corrie Sakaluk

Obviously, the best way for the matter of Rob Ford’s speech and conduct during his unnecessary calls to emergency services when This Hour Has 22 Minutes comedian Mary Walsh approached him outside his home on October 24, 2011, would be to release the tapes. If there is nothing to be covered up or untoward about Ford’s comments during the calls, then the tapes would reveal and prove this once and for all.

Instead, Chief Bill Blair referred the tapes to OPP Commissioner Chris D. Lewis in order to be reviewed and to have his accounts publicly validated. In an extremely brief letter to Blair on Jan. 20 the Commissioner stated that he could “confirm that the statement you made in a public release on October 28, 2011, is an accurate interpretation of the content of the tapes”.

Great. If that’s the case, then simply release them. It is only a matter of personal request on behalf of the Mayor that the tapes of his 9-1-1 calls have been kept private. He has also already admitted to using the word “fuck” during his call, and to behaving “inappropriately”.

I want to commend CBC ombudsman Kirk LaPointe who reported on January 5 that CBC would stand by their stories and pointed out that Chief Blair’s account of the tapes could not be trusted because his budget was controlled by Mayor Rob Ford. As far as I am aware LaPointe has not retracted or changed his mind, despite having taken flack from Blair spokesperson Mark Pugash, who has called it “offensive” that he would suggest that budget concerns would at all influence Chief Blair.

Is Pugash serious? Is the public really expected to believe that the allocation of money for the police force by Mayor Ford, and thereby Blair’s reputation amongst his colleagues and police officers, as well as their morale, would not be a motivating factor for his actions?

Blair himself is reported as asking for a review of Ford’s comments by the OPP Commissioner “in order to assist the CBC ombudsman in doing his job”. I am personally sceptical that Kirk LaPointe needs or should ever receive police assistance in doing his job as ombudsman at the CBC. In fact I would prefer that he operate independently, free from coercion and police pressure.

Frankly, I find the entire situation with Rob Ford, Mary Walsh and 9-1-1 hilarious. When Rob Ford got elected, I couldn’t have imagined (even in my wildest imaginings) that he would do so many absolutely ridiculous things to make himself such an easy target for political comedians and pundits.

What Rob Ford said or didn’t say during his 9-1-1 call is not even not of huge concern to me. The Mayor called the police on a sketch comedian because he felt truly at risk! The more extreme and frantic he was during the calls is actually the more uproariously side-splitting the story gets.

The broader issue is that even in a situation with so little at stake (i.e. the reputation of a Mayor who is so clearly a buffoon), the police force continues to act as a brotherhood where loyalty and protecting each others’ reputation is a number one priority, regardless of damage done to regular civilians or principles of public disclosure.

This time its whether or not Rob Ford said the word “bitches” or referred to himself as “Rob fucking Ford…the mayor of this city!”

Other times its cover-ups or acquittals when cold-blooded murder is perpetrated by police officers on Toronto streets. The collusion between city police and provincial and federal forces in developing and enforcing secret laws and covering up police violence was nowhere more obvious than in the G20 debacle of summer 2010.

Any attempts to hold police accountable through civilian organizations, such as the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) created in the 1990 Police Services act, have been completely undermined. After decades of civilian activism around police brutality against the Black community in Toronto, the SIU was originally set up to be comprised of civilians instead of police homicide investigators. However it has only been staffed only by retired police officers seen by the force as the only “civilians” qualified enough to conduct investigations of incidents.

Not surprisingly, the SIU has cleared police officers of any wrongdoing in the police murders of several Toronto youth since 2008, including 18-year-old Alwy al-Nadhir and 28-year-old Byron Debassige, leaving their families even more heartbroken and disillusioned.

In the 2010 police murder of 18-year-old Junior Alexander Manon, the SIU interpreted the cause of Junior’s death as a heart attack. They told police that their autopsy found “no broken bones and no anatomical reasons for the death of this 18-year-old”.

The only reason the Toronto-OPP cover up of Rob Ford’s true comments to 9-1-1 staff in October 2011 is of concern is because it points to the bigger problem of lack of police accountability overall. Whether or not he swore or spoke in an arrogant way is not the point.

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