Toronto Police urged the public not to panic after Mayor Rob Ford announced that City Hall had been the subject of a bomb threat.
Police bomb squad officers and a bomb-sniffing dog combed through Mayor Rob Ford’s office and elsewhere in City Hall Monday afternoon, finding no evidence of explosives after the mayor reported receiving a threat to “blow” the building if he did not resign as chief magistrate. The threat, received by both the mayor’s brother Councillor Doug Ford and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, is still the subject of an active police investigation.
“It mentioned my name, that if I don’t resign immediately that the place is going to get blown up,” Mayor Ford told reporters. “This is very, very serious. I don’t want people to panic, but we’re aware of this and police are working on this as fast as possible to find out who sent it.”
The mayor announced details directly to reporters – including reading out the e-mailed threat on live television – without police present, and without any indication of the seriousness of the threat.
For most of City Hall employees, the mayor’s announcement was the first they heard of the threat. Police decided against ordering an evacuation of the building, and an e-mail from City Hall security was not sent out until hours later. And while his spokesman said the mayor consulted with City Hall security on making the threat public, he said police did not participate in that decision.
The mayor’s announcement left Toronto Police Constable David Hopkinson urging the public to remain calm. He said that while police were investigating the matter seriously, “there’s no reason to panic. We have officers on scene, and they’ll advise the public if there’s a need to take further action.” He added that threats of a similar nature at City Hall are not rare.
By Monday afternoon, Inspector Frank Barredo, one of the Toronto Police officers who conducted the City Hall search, told CP24 that the investigation is ongoing but they had found no evidence of a threat.
When asked whether the mayor’s publicizing of the threat had impeded the investigation, Inspector Barredo said “absolutely not.”
Still, security experts questioned whether the mayor made the right decision.
Larry Busch, a former RCMP officer in charge of VIP security, said police would typically advise against publicizing a threat to avoid inciting panic.
“Now you’ve not only got the people in the building concerned, you’ve got family, friends and relatives calling in … and people are whipped into a situation of panic that you don’t need,” he said.
David Hyde, a security consultant and former director of security for Cadillac Fairview, added that reading out the e-mailed threat itself – as the mayor did – is “highly unusual.”
“I think it emboldens copycats,” he said. “It may cause panic, worry and concern with people in City Hall – be it family, public or staff members – and also may undermine the police investigation.”