Tensions between the mayor of Canada’s largest city and its police chief escalated on Sunday, with Rob Ford calling for the release of a video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine.
Mr. Ford used his weekly radio show to challenge Police Chief Bill Blair, echoing comments made last Friday by his lawyer in connection with a drug probe involving the Mayor’s friend Alessandro Lisi.
“I am asking you to release this video now,” Mr. Ford said. “Whatever this video shows, folks, Toronto residents deserve to see it and people need to judge for themselves.”
Chief Blair was not available for comment on Sunday. His spokesman, Mark Pugash, said police are abiding by the rule of law by not releasing the video or any other electronic devices seized in connection with the drug investigation.
“The law requires us to turn evidence over to the courts,” Mr. Pugash said in an interview. “They alone have the authority to decide how it is treated.”
A former Crown prosecutor agreed with Mr. Pugash, saying video evidence is not analogous to guns and drugs seized by police and displayed during photo-ops when they make a drug bust. The video, he said, is part of an ongoing investigation; is “loaded with context;” and may raise privacy issues.
Mr. Lisi has been charged with extortion in relation to “efforts to retrieve a recording,” and was released on $5,000 bail after a brief court appearance Friday.
Chief Blair became a powerful new critic of the Mayor on Thursday, when he announced that police had recovered the video – one Mr. Ford had long denied existed. The chief said he had viewed the recording and was “disappointed” by what he saw. A second video is also “relevant” to the Ford investigation, dubbed Project Brazen 2, Chief Blair said, but he declined to elaborate.
Mr. Ford stopped short during his radio program of repeating comments made by his lawyer, Dennis Morris, who accused Chief Blair of having a “political agenda” and said his client has been found guilty “in the court of public opinion.”
Mr. Ford stressed that he has a problem with the leadership of the Police Service, not the men and women on the front lines.
“They work day in and day out to keep our city safe and they are absolutely the best police force in the world.”
In fact, he said, he plans to try to hire another 100 officers next year.
Mr. Ford and his lawyer have not called for the resignation of Chief Blair, who reports to the Police Services Board.
A chief’s contract can be terminated in only one of two ways, said Alok Mukherjee, chairman of the Police Services Board. A chief may lose the job due to a serious breach of the Police Services Act or may leave through a negotiated settlement if the board decides, by majority vote, that they would like someone else in the role.
Dr. Mukherjee said he was unaware of any discussions within the board that indicated unhappiness with how Chief Blair has been handling the video issue.
With a report from Oliver Moore