When news broke that Toronto’s police services board would not be renewing Chief Bill Blair’s contract, two of the chief’s biggest critics held their tongues.
Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, have had a tense relationship with the head of the police force over the past year and a half. But on Wednesday, both politicians offered short, simple statements.
“I want to thank Chief Bill Blair for his service to the people of this great city for the last 10 years. There was a decision made from the police services board today that his contract will not be renewed and this is a decision that was made strictly by the police services board,” Mayor Ford said outside his office at City Hall. He gave the same remarks at a city park re-opening later in the day.
His brother offered similar sentiments.
“I just wish the chief all the best and want to thank him for his service for the last 10 years,” Doug Ford said Wednesday afternoon, repeating variations of that statement six times in response to each question reporters asked.
But the Ford brothers didn’t always have complimentary things to say about the chief of police. In response to reports of a video showing Mayor Ford smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine, police launched an investigation into the mayor’s activities. Months later, police documents revealed details of the investigation, and last October, at a news conference announcing police had the video, Chief Blair said he was disappointed at what it showed.
The mayor and his brother launched an onslaught of attacks against Chief Blair. They accused the Chief of Police of having a conflict of interest and being biased, called for his resignation and asked for the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to investigate the chief’s behaviour.
The relationship was tense on both sides, with the mayor’s invitation to the police gala rescinded that fall.
Councillor Ford also criticized Chief Blair for going on a fishing trip with Andy Pringle, a member of the police board, saying he was in a conflict of interest for doing so.
“Am I supposed to be intimidated by the police chief?” Mr. Ford said in November as he called for Mr. Blair to step down. “We have the most political police chief I’ve ever seen. The police chief believes he’s the judge, the jury and the executioner.”
A few hours after Councillor Ford called for the chief’s resignation, Mayor Ford admitted to having used crack cocaine. The mayor spent two months in rehab earlier this summer to seek treatment for his drug and alcohol addiction.
The police chief handed over the investigation to the OPP in an attempt to address any concerns of bias.
But the criticisms continued: the mayor told reporters the chief of police had wasted taxpayers’ money with the investigation, and a video of the mayor using profane language about Chief Blair was made public earlier this year.
Chief Blair’s contract will expire in April, 2015. He has said he will complete his term. Meanwhile, the search for a new chief will begin, and Mayor Ford, confident in his re-election campaign, said he looks forward to someone new taking the reins.
“I look forward to working with the next police chief in April next year and that’s all I have to say,” the mayor said.
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