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Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, speaks to the press at the Toronto Police Headquarters. (Philip Cheung/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, speaks to the press at the Toronto Police Headquarters. (Philip Cheung/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto police board concerns over Chief Blair end in costly 'review of a review' Add to ...

Toronto’s police board has budgeted $300,000 to conduct a “review of the review” already completed by Chief Bill Blair to find efficiencies in the force.

The chief was asked by the board to look for cost-savings within the service several years ago, and delivered the results of his “internal organizational review” earlier this year. Several board members have since expressed concerns, leading the board to decide to hire a separate group of consultants to conduct their own assessment.

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The decision comes against the backdrop of continuing tension between at least one board member and the police chief, and lingering questions over the chief’s future – his contract expires next April, but could be extended.

Chief Blair has been involved in a public battle with Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, Doug, after the chief remarked that he was “disappointed” over the mayor’s alleged crack video and revealed that Rob Ford is the subject of a continuing investigation. In response, the mayor called the investigation “politically motivated,” and Doug Ford alleged that the chief was biased in favour of mayoral rival John Tory.

Although he denied any conflict of interest, Chief Blair recently announced he was handing oversight of the Ford probe to the Ontario Provincial Police.

The police board decided in January to hire separate consultants to look at the results of the “chief’s internal organizational review” (CIOR), after members raised questions about the transparency of the process, as well as the “modest financial efficiencies” it managed to find.

“It seems to have gotten away from the board,” said vice-chair Councillor Michael Thompson, who described the board-led assessment as “a review of the review.” He said the intention from the outset in 2011 was that the board – and not the chief – be in charge of the organizational review.

Mr. Thompson made headlines recently for going public with his opposition to extending Chief Blair’s contract. After the board voted to censure him, Mr. Thompson launched legal action against them.

“It was my understanding as well that the board was going to be an integral part of the review process, which doesn’t seem to have happened,” he told The Globe, adding that at least two board members were assigned to “a CIOR steering committee” to be involved with the process.

When asked why the board was not integral to the chief’s review, Mr. Thompson said “apparently, whatever instruction was given wasn’t followed.” He made clear that Chief Blair was the subject of that remark by later clarifying: “the board only has the authority to give instructions to the chief.”

Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said Tuesday that the chief’s review found a savings of $7-million per year for the force. He declined to respond to Mr. Thompson’s comments about the chief.

The force’s total annual budget is more than $1-billion. The board has allocated $300,000 from the Toronto Police’s 2013 operating budget surplus to pay for the second review.

Board chair Alok Mukherjee played down dissent between the board and the chief in e-mails to The Globe Tuesday. “The board is undertaking an assessment of the results of the Chief’s internal review and not a review of his review,” he wrote. He said that an assessment is different from a review in that “it involves an in-depth examination of the measures in terms of several factors such as cost-benefit, risk, value added, long term implications.”

Mr. Mukherjee, who would only respond to questions submitted to him by e-mail, wrote in a January report to the board that the chief’s review does include “important recommendations,” despite the “modest financial efficiencies” found.

And though Mr. Mukherjee did not answer directly whether the chief followed instructions, he did say that the board recommended to Chief Blair in October, 2011, that he “retain external expertise” in conducting the review. Chief Blair hired Accenture to assist with part of the review, but “the internal review was not conducted by an external consultant,” Mr. Mukherjee wrote.

And though terms of reference for the review were to be “developed in consultation with the board,” Mr. Mukherjee said that “the terms of reference for CIOR were not developed in consultation with or shared with the Board.”

Mr. Mukherjee could not say how much the chief’s original review has already cost the TPS, except to say it is “significantly more” than the $44,265.60 paid in 2013 alone to consultants at Accenture for part of the CIOR.

 

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