Councillor Michael Thompson Resists Attempts to Silence his Criticism of the Police Chief
TORONTO, March 11, 2014 /CNW/ - On February 12, 2014, two members of the Toronto Police Services Board complained about Councillor Michael Thompson's comments to the Toronto Star. Councillor Thompson, who is also Vice-Chair of the Board, had criticized the Toronto Police for its strip search practices and over-spending, and said that he would not support a renewal of Chief Blair's contract.
The Board held a meeting the next day to discuss the complaint. Councillor Thompson was not given a copy of the complaint; in fact, the complaint was never put in writing as required by the Board's own policy. Councillor Thompson was not given an opportunity to respond to the complaint. Nor was Councillor Thompson even allowed to attend the meeting.
Even more Kafkaesque, the two complainants were allowed to attend the meeting and vote on their own complaint. With a quorum of four (two of whom were the complainants), the Board decided that Councillor Thompson "appears" to have "potentially" breached the Code of Conduct. The Board requested that the Ministry of the Solicitor General conduct an investigation, despite having no power to do so unless it actually "determines" that there has been a breach. The Board made no such determination.
If there was any doubt about the Board's intention, it was made clear in the last sentence of the letter that Councillor Thompson received later that day: "The Board urges you to not participate in any matters which may pertain to personnel [personal], legal or contractual issues involving the personal interest of Chief Blair, as opposed to the organizational interests of the Toronto Police Service." The Board is trying to silence criticism of Chief Blair and protect his contract renewal.
Councillor Thompson has retained Clayton Ruby and Gerald Chan to bring an application for judicial review, which seeks to quash the Board's decision and prohibit the Ministry from conducting an investigation.
Simply put, it cannot be a violation of the Code of Conduct to criticize the Chief of Police. To say that this is potentially a breach, as the Board has done, is to stifle public debate, violate free expression, and undermine the Board's own mandate of exercising vigorous civilian oversight of the Toronto Police.
The Board also violated the most basic rules of procedural fairness by allowing the complainants to vote on their own complaints, which creates an actual conflict of interest and apprehended bias, and by refusing to give Councillor Thompson a chance to respond.
SOURCE Ruby Shiller Chan HasanFor further information:
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