Still smarting from a string of bad-news stories that have surfaced in recent weeks, Toronto’s rank-and-file police officers have been read the riot act by Police Chief Bill Blair, who has dispatched a scathing rebuke about “totally unacceptable” behaviour.
The message was delivered Monday night in an in-house video, a means by which Chief Blair regularly communicates with the roughly 7,500 uniformed and civilian members of the Toronto Police Service.
A police source who has seen the video confirmed that Chief Blair rebukes officers for, among other things, lying in court, making racist remarks and turning off police-cruiser dashboard cameras.
“If you want to be an idiot, you don’t get to be an idiot in our uniform,” an irate Mr. Blair states.
“You don’t get to be an idiot diminishing our organization and you cannot hide behind the badge to abuse the authority so carefully earned and so carefully used by all of us.’ Two video clips, both court evidence, were also included in the message.
One shows an officer repeatedly striking a man who has just been arrested in Parkdale for drunken driving. But the images, screened in court at a recent trial where the man was acquitted, can only be partly glimpsed because the dashboard camera has been switched off.
The second clip involves police using profane and racist language. When and where is not clear.
Chief Blair has ordered investigations into both incidents.
“The problem with these video clips is not that they were captured on video,” he says in his message.
“The problem lies in the behaviour. It’s the behaviour which damages our service; it’s the behaviour that damages your relationship with the people of Toronto.”
He then alludes to other instances of police misconduct, and has harsh words for officers who are “perhaps not telling the full truth in court.”
“I know, like me, when you see examples of police officers conducting themselves in a way which is totally unacceptable, inconsistent with our values, our honour, our reputation and our relationship with the public, I know it makes you angry because it makes me angry,” he says.
“I don’t like having to explain to my family, my friends and my neighbours why some individuals, who are members of my service, would conduct themselves in this way ... They do not reflect who we are …You have a responsibility to say ‘That’s not consistent with my values, that’s not the police service I want to belong to.’”