OPP leadership must be free of politicial suspicion

Police corruption is a form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, or career advancement for officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest. One common form of police corruption is soliciting or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities. Another example is police officers flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure convictions of suspects — for example, through the use of falsified evidence.

Brad Blair wants court to speed up hearing on OPP commission

Postby Thomas » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:46 pm

Brad Blair wants court to speed up hearing on OPP commissioner case

An Ontario Provincial Police deputy commissioner is asking a court to urgently consider ordering the provincial ombudsman to investigate the appointment of a friend of the premier’s to the job of top cop.

Brad Blair has applied to Ontario’s Divisional Court in an attempt to force an investigation into the hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as the new OPP commissioner, raising concerns about potential political interference.

Blair asked the ombudsman last month to probe the hiring process that saw 72-year-old Taverner get the job but Paul Dube declined, saying cabinet deliberations are outside the office’s jurisdiction.

A few days after Blair asked the courts to consider the case, the province’s integrity commissioner launched an investigation and Taverner delayed his appointment pending the outcome of the probe.

Premier Doug Ford has indicated that Taverner’s appointment will go ahead whenever the integrity review is finished, and Blair’s lawyer argues in documents filed to the court that could be complete in a matter of weeks.

That leaves a narrow window for the court case, argues Julian Falconer.

“The underlying matters require an expedited resolution in order to address the perceived political interference in the OPP and to enable a timely return to the normal administration of the OPP,” he writes.

The court is set to hear Falconer’s motion for an expedited hearing on Monday.

Falconer argues that the integrity commissioner’s mandate is to review whether Ford used his office to further his own or someone else’s personal interest, while an ombudsman probe could be broader, looking at potential political interference in the hiring process, any negative impact on the independence of the OPP and any effects on public confidence in the OPP’s integrity.

If the integrity commissioner finds a provincial politician has violated the Members’ Integrity Act, he can recommend various penalties, but the legislature — under the majority Progressive Conservatives — could reject the recommendation.

The ombudsman’s lawyer argues in a letter, included in Falconer’s court filings, that the integrity review could take months and there is no reason to jump the court queue.

Taverner is a longtime Ford ally who initially did not meet the requirements listed for the commissioner position. The Ford government has admitted it lowered the requirements for the position to attract a wider range of candidates.

Blair said in a letter to the ombudsman that the original job posting required candidates to have a rank of deputy police chief or higher, or assistant commissioner or higher, in a major police service — a threshold Taverner did not meet.

https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/ ... ioner-case

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/court-to-hea ... -1.4248101

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/c ... ioner-case

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Taverner dined with interview panelist, Ford before OPP appo

Postby Thomas » Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:18 am

Taverner dined with interview panelist, Ford before OPP appointment

Toronto police Superintendent Ron Taverner, the Ontario government’s choice as the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, met with Premier Doug Ford multiple times in the months leading up to his appointment, including a dinner with the hiring official who vetted Supt. Taverner for the high-profile position.

Supt. Taverner also accompanied Mr. Ford to an event at the Premier’s lakeside cottage just days before it was announced publicly that the top job at the OPP was available, a Globe and Mail review of photographs and related records shows.

Neither man has made a secret of the fact they are friends, and Supt. Taverner’s ties to the Ford family go back even further. He has publicly praised the late Rob Ford, the former mayor of Toronto who died in 2016 and was himself embroiled in a major police investigation after gang members filmed him smoking crack cocaine in 2013.

Their interactions just prior to his appointment, though, will be of interest to the politicians, judges and watchdogs now examining the government’s appointment of the 72-year-old, mid-level commander.

Following a public outcry over the hire, Supt. Taverner last month deferred accepting the job pending a review by the province’s Integrity Commissioner – a probe into, among other matters, whether Mr. Ford should have recused himself when cabinet approved the appointment.

In the meantime, OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair will be in divisional court Monday, arguing that another watchdog, the Ontario Ombudsman, should investigate the broader issue of whether the Ford government crossed a line and tried to exert control over the police – specifically a police force that has jurisdiction over investigations of government officials.

Mr. Ford has said he had “zero influence” over the hiring. He has repeatedly pointed to the panel of interviewers, saying they recommended Supt. Taverner for the job, not him. “No matter who it was, I would have accepted.”

But a review of the recent encounters between the Premier and the police commander – many of which have been captured in photos and video posted online – shows that one of those interview panelists dined with the two men months before the appointment. On June 18, 2018, Mario Di Tommaso – who would go on to interview applicants in both rounds of the job competition – was seated next to Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner during the dinner portion of a golf tournament.

At the time, Mr. Ford had been Premier for 11 days, Mr. Di Tommaso was a Toronto police staff superintendent and one of the officers under his charge was Supt. Taverner. The officers have worked for the Toronto Police Service for a combined nine decades.

On Oct. 1, less than four months after the three men dined together, Mr. Di Tommaso was named the new deputy minister of Community Safety – the highest-ranking bureaucrat in Ontario law enforcement. (The other panelist who recommended Supt. Taverner, according to Mr. Ford, was Steve Orsini, the secretary of the cabinet, the province’s top civil servant. On Dec. 14, as criticism of the appointment grew, Mr. Orsini announced he will retire at the end of this month.)

Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner declined to respond to detailed questions about their multiple meetings in advance of the appointment. Mr. Di Tommaso did not respond to a list of questions.

There is little information on the public record about what the men discussed at any of their meetings, including whether the commissioner’s job came up.

But The Globe has compiled a chronology of events and government moves that raise questions about whether a path was cleared for Supt. Taverner’s appointment – an appointment that Deputy Commissioner Blair says has tarnished the “perceived independence and integrity of the OPP.”

June 18, 2018: Dinner, Toronto Police Chief Invitational golf tournament

Fresh off his victory in Ontario’s 43rd general election, Mr. Ford arrived at the Markland Wood Golf Club for the tail end of the annual Toronto Police Chief Invitational golf tournament. When he arrived, he gravitated toward a familiar face.

A photograph from the event shows Mr. Ford seated for dinner between two police officers: Supt. Taverner to his left and then Staff Superintendent Di Tommaso to his right. At the time, Supt. Taverner was the superintendent for three west-end Toronto police divisions and Mr. Di Tommaso was his boss.

Wanita Kelava, the tournament director, said she didn’t know who invited the Premier to the event. “It was a last-minute thing,” she said. Seats were not assigned, and participants were welcome to sit wherever they wanted.

One day after The Globe made a number of inquiries with Supt. Taverner and others about the dinner, all photos of Supt. Taverner were removed from the golf tournament’s website.

July 30, 2018: Dinner, Posticino

Mr. Ford dined with Supt. Taverner and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders at Posticino, an Italian restaurant in Toronto’s west end.

This meeting was first disclosed by the Official Opposition, the NDP, which obtained a portion of the Premier’s calendar through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and released it to the public. The only person who has spoken publicly about this meeting is Chief Saunders, who said the dinner was arranged to discuss gun violence. Asked at a news conference if the OPP commissioner’s job came up, he said, “Absolutely no.” He added: “I wish I had time to discuss the OPP, but I am the chief here in Toronto and I have gun violence and young black boys killing other young black boys.”

Chief Saunders said Supt. Taverner was invited to the dinner because his police divisions in North Etobicoke account for “40 per cent of the city’s violence.”

According to Mr. Ford’s calendar, the dinner was scheduled to last 90 minutes.

Aug. 16, 2018: Wally’s Grill

Wally’s Grill is a diner about a 20-minute walk from Deco Labels & Tags, the printing business owned by Mr. Ford’s family. On this day, the Premier joined Supt. Taverner there for a meal, a meeting captured in a photograph by a customer, who supplied the image to The Globe.

The photographer, whom The Globe is not identifying, positioned a copy of the Aug. 16 edition of the Toronto Star within the frame of the photo to show when it was taken. The metadata contained in the image indicates it was taken at 2:39 p.m. that day.

Aug. 28, 2018: Premier Ford’s cottage

For the past few years, Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner have made an annual trek to Mr. Ford’s cottage, north of the city, to host a group of teenagers from the Toronto community known as Rexdale. This August, they brought along the Premier’s personal news crew – Ontario News Now, the taxpayer-funded service that streams video on behalf of the Progressive Conservative government.

Ontario News Now interviewed Mr. Ford and Supt. Taverner while their guests – young adults from a youth organization called Trust 15 – played in the background on Mr. Ford’s beach.

“These are the greatest kids around. They’re incredible. I love ’em,” Mr. Ford, wearing a “For The People” T-shirt, told the news service. Although the video was posted on YouTube on Aug. 30, Trust 15 posted photos of the event on its Instagram page on Aug. 28.

When Supt. Taverner’s appointment was announced in a news release at the end of November, it included several endorsements, including one from the founder of Trust 15, Marcia Brown.

Reached by phone, Ms. Brown declined to answer questions about the trip. As for who asked her to write an endorsement of Supt. Taverner, Ms. Brown encouraged a Globe reporter to “talk to Ron or Doug.”

Autumn 2018: A path is cleared

It’s not clear when it became known within Queen’s Park that OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes was set to retire. But on Sept. 5, he made it official in a memo to the OPP’s 5,800 uniformed officers and 2,800 civilian employees.

What those thousands of staff members didn’t know was that Mr. Hawkes had developed a fractious relationship with Ontario’s new Premier, according to Deputy Commissioner Blair.

Mr. Ford “expressed displeasure” that the OPP had not given him a security detail he “would feel comfortable with,” Mr. Blair later alleged in a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman about Supt. Taverner’s appointment.

Mr. Ford asked for a face-to-face meeting with Commissioner Hawkes, where he “stated that if former commissioner Hawkes would not address the issue, perhaps a new commissioner would,” Deputy Commissioner Blair alleged.

In the weeks that followed Mr. Hawkes’ announcement, the government made a number of moves that – intentionally or not – created a path for Supt. Taverner to assume control of the OPP.

On Sept. 24, the government announced that a key bureaucrat was leaving, a long-standing public servant who would have been a key voice at the table when it came to picking the next commissioner. Matt Torigian, the deputy minister of Community Safety and a former Waterloo Regional Police Service chief, was joining the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, the government said in a news release.

That news was only a week old when the government named Mr. Torigian’s permanent replacement: Mr. Di Tommaso, Supt. Taverner’s boss at the Toronto Police Service, would serve as the new deputy minister of Community Safety.

Right away, Mr. Di Tommaso was required to dive into one of the most pressing issues confronting his ministry: Who would lead the provincial police force responsible for patrolling 323 Ontario towns and villages and 127,000 kilometres of highways?

On his first day of work – Oct. 22, a Monday – the competition officially opened to find the next OPP commissioner.

Two days after the position was posted, an alteration was made to the job requirements. Originally, applicants needed to have the “rank of Deputy Chief or higher,” which would have precluded Supt. Taverner from applying. But on Oct. 24, that restriction was modified to allow for any “experienced executive with a background in policing.”

No one in the public service has taken credit for this alteration.

In his fourth week on the job, Mr. Di Tommaso and another deputy minister started the first round of interviews. Thirteen candidates were interviewed, Deputy Commissioner Blair said.

By Mr. Di Tommaso’s fifth week on the job, the government had narrowed it down to three candidates. On Nov. 20, Mr. Di Tommaso and the head of the public service, Mr. Orsini, interviewed those applicants: Deputy Commissioner Blair, OPP Provincial Commander Mary Silverthorn and Supt. Taverner.

On Nov. 29, the government announced Supt. Taverner would be the next OPP commissioner.

The news shook the senior leadership of the OPP, which coincidentally gathered two days later at Blue Mountain resort to celebrate the retirement of Mr. Hawkes.

Mr. Di Tommaso was there.

The emcee for the event was retired OPP investigator Chris Nicholas, best known as the officer who oversaw the force’s successful 2010 investigation of former air-force colonel Russell Williams, a serial sexual predator and murderer.

Mr. Nicholas shared an anecdote. His grandchildren were admiring the badges he had been awarded as he ascended through the ranks of the OPP. They noticed a ceremonial, honorary commissioner badge he had been given, even though he had retired as a superintendent – three ranks below commissioner. His granddaughter asked: Were you the commissioner?

“That would be silly,” his six-year-old grandson replied. “You can’t be the commissioner of the OPP from the superintendent rank. You need at least two badges before that.”

The room erupted with laughter.

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Judge denies request to speed up hearing on Ron Taverner OPP

Postby Thomas » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:07 am

Judge denies request to speed up hearing on Ron Taverner OPP appointment

An Ontario court rejected a request Monday to speed up a hearing into whether it should order an ombudsman investigation into the appointment of a friend of the premier's to the job of top cop.

OPP deputy commissioner Brad Blair has asked Ontario's Divisional Court to force an investigation into the hiring of Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as the new OPP commissioner.

Blair's lawyer Julian Falconer argued Monday that the case should be expedited, in part because Blair has reasonable grounds to be concerned about reprisal, though he did not go into detail.

"It is my view that reprisal is purely a function of his seeking an investigation," Falconer said in court. "If an investigation were commenced formally, his vulnerability would be reduced."

Blair was acting OPP commissioner at the time he originally started the court case, but soon after was removed from that position.

A few days after Blair launched his court application, the province's integrity commissioner launched an investigation and Taverner delayed his appointment pending the outcome of that probe.

But Premier Doug Ford has indicated that Taverner's appointment will go ahead whenever the integrity review is finished.

The integrity investigation is narrow in scope and a broader ombudsman's investigation is needed, Falconer argued.

"The installation of Ron Taverner, we say, as commissioner of the OPP without this full investigation can irreversibly damage the command structure of the OPP, because — quite simply — these questions go to the heart of the credibility of command."

Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel said Falconer failed to establish the basis for an urgent hearing.

"There is no urgency related to the timing of the assumption of responsibilities by the new OPP commissioner," he said. "The ombudsman does not have the authority to prevent Supt. Taverner from assuming the responsibilities of OPP commissioner."

Wilton-Siegel said, however, that he hopes the case can be heard in a timely fashion.

Falconer said he expects that to be April or May.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ ... -1.4977306
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Christie Blatchford: Reviewing fishy Taverner hire for OPP c

Postby Thomas » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:08 am

Christie Blatchford: Reviewing fishy Taverner hire for OPP chief won’t change Ford's mind

The lawyer Julian Falconer, on behalf of his client Brad Blair, the deposed interim commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, is pushing the proverbial boulder uphill, with all that entails.

Falconer is trying to force the Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dube, to take a big look at the curious process that resulted in the hiring of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s good friend, Ron Taverner, as the next OPP commissioner. Falconer says the process looks stinky, as indeed it does, and after Dube twice turned down his plea to investigate the matter (he said he doesn’t have the authority and that besides, he couldn’t direct the government who to appoint and couldn’t stop the Taverner appointment in any case), he turned to the courts, hoping Dube would be forced to act.

That question hasn’t yet been heard, let alone decided, but Falconer was in Divisional Court in Toronto on Monday, trying to get an expedited date for the argument.

He failed to persuade Ontario Superior Court Judge Herman Wilton-Siegel that there was such urgency, though the judge did agree he’s “concerned” the matter be heard in a timely matter.

And lest you forget, something sure looks fishy about it: The job advertisement was up only two days before it was pulled, with the qualifications for applying magically lowered so as to allow someone of Taverner’s rank to give it a whirl; there have been various reports that Ford was looking to find a soft landing for his friend, and that Taverner was offered (and rejected) the chance to run the government cannabis store.

All this was reported by others, but sources of mine confirm it.

Just for good measure, the Monday Globe and Mail ran a story featuring delicious pictures of Taverner and Ford socializing together in the weeks and months before Taverner’s appointment — and one of them also featured former staff superintendent, and now Ford’s deputy community safety minister, Mario Di Tommaso, who was part of the allegedly independent committee that interviewed candidates for the job.

Di Tommaso was also Taverner’s direct superior at Toronto police, where they both worked for decades, Taverner as the superintendent in the very area where the Ford family lives and where their family business is located.

Now, Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake has agreed to have a look at a small slice of the hiring, this upon receiving a formal complaint from NDP MPP Kevin Yarde, who alleges that Premier Ford contravened the Integrity Act by participating in the cabinet decision to appoint Taverner to the $250,000 job last November.

As the controversy over the appointment was raging, Ford said publicly he didn’t need to recuse himself because the decision had been made by “an independent panel” and he’d had “zero influence.”

But the bigger questions — whether there was political interference in the hiring process and has the OPP’s independence been compromised — remain an oozing sore that no one much wants to examine.

As important, of course, is the question of whether any of it would make a difference to this premier or his government.

Even if Dube were to suddenly acquiesce or be ordered to inquire into the hiring process; even if he issued a report saying that yes, the process was tainted by political interference; even if Wake were to determine that Ford should have recused himself from any discussion about Taverner’s appointment, my own suspicion is that none of it would change a thing.

Ford and his Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones have repeatedly said publicly that Taverner was chosen by an “independent commission,” “an independent commissioner,” and “the independent hiring committee.”

Er, which was it?

And after the integrity commissioner announced that he would conduct an inquiry, Ford said, “Let the review take place. And I can tell you one thing, once the review gets done, he’s (Taverner’s) going to be the best commissioner the OPP has ever seen.”

In other words, it appears the premier is determined to install Taverner.

Thus does Falconer’s task change from pushing a boulder uphill to, can you shame the shameless?

Two final points: How is it that Brad Blair is left to finance this probably hopeless but important exercise by himself?

(Yes, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the commissioner’s job, but his concerns for the OPP appear genuine and much broader than any personal axe he may have to grind.)

And if you doubt its importance, cast your mind back to the days of the Dalton McGuinty government, and later the Kathleen Wynne government.

Off the top of my large but small-brained head, I can remember OPP probes into the gas plants scandal, wind farms records, ORNGE air ambulance, and alleged Elections Act violations. The simple truth is that governments, being composed of people, may cross lines, make mistakes and even act illegally, and in Ontario, when they allegedly do, it’s the OPP that investigates.

That’s why the police need to be independent and free of political interference, at the very least of the overt, guys-get-my-good buddy-a-job sort.

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/christ ... he-outcome
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GOLDSTEIN: Ford should rethink Taverner appointment

Postby Thomas » Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:24 pm

There’s one inescapable reason why Premier Doug Ford should not follow through on appointing Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police.

It’s that putting the longtime Ford family friend in charge of the OPP will put both the premier and the Progressive Conservative government he leads in an ongoing conflict of interest.

This is an issue regardless of the outcome of the ongoing investigation by the province’s integrity commissioner into the process by which Taverner was hired.

What happens, for example, if the OPP has to investigate Ford’s government for wrongdoing, as occurred with the previous Liberal government in the cancelled gas plants scandal, the Ornge air ambulance scandal and the Sudbury byelection fiasco?

What happens if a member of the opposition parties becomes the focus of an OPP investigation?

In all of these scenarios, the fact that the head of the OPP is a longtime, personal friend of the premier and his family would create a perceived conflict of interest, no matter how fair or thorough the police investigation and no matter if it resulted in charges or convictions.

The perception of a conflict of interest has already come into play in the process by which Taverner, 72, was selected as commissioner.

This has nothing to do with Taverner’s competence for the job. He might well make an excellent commissioner.

But the issue is that the qualifications for being chosen as OPP commissioner by the selection committee were changed in the middle of the process so that Taverner could be considered for the job.

In that context, the fact Ford and Taverner are friends creates the perception of a conflict of interest even if it’s true, as Ford insists, that he had no hand in Taverner’s hiring.

The fact that the selection committee knew about Ford’s long-standing friendship with Taverner, and that the premier would be pleased by his selection, is relevant to the issue of how and why he was hired.

It’s true, as Ford said last week, that he has the authority to appoint Taverner as commissioner, because regardless of the process for selecting anyone to that position, it ultimately must be approved by cabinet, which in the real world means the premier.

But just because Ford has the power to appoint Taverner, doesn’t mean he should.

To be fair to the premier, let’s not be naive about how political appointments are made by governments of all ideological stripes, including the previous Liberal one, in which political patronage is a fact of life.

Governments don’t hire their enemies for key jobs, they hire their friends, and there are many jobs to which Taverner could have been appointed that would not have raised the red flag that appointing him as OPP commissioner has.

As for Ford’s argument he has concerns about how the OPP is being run and that he needs someone he can trust to reform it, he has every right to make that a priority for the new commissioner.

But surely Taverner is not the only individual capable of implementing such reforms.

As for Ford’s complaint much of the media is out to get him no matter what he does, that’s true, but any premier who hired a personal friend to run the OPP would be subject to intense media scrutiny.

Smart politicians know when it’s time to abandon a hill that it’s not worth dying on. This is that time for Ford.

https://theprovince.com/opinion/columni ... 9a9ef6058b
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