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William Blair, Toronto's Chief of Police
William Blair, Toronto's Chief of Police

Earlier discussion

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair on gangs and guns Add to ...

Ian Park: The legal system requires that all of your officers be godlike (i.e. perfect in all of their functions at all times when dealing with suspected perpetrators), at all times. Any mistake will let a known criminal walk. So how do we as a people deal with this asinine concept?

Chief Bill Blair: The Supreme Court of Canada recently articulated a clearer set of guidelines for the conduct of police investigations and for those circumstance where we stop and talk to a person that is possibly involved in criminal activity. This will help.

Police officers have to make instant decisions, under very stressful circumstances, based on an increasingly complex legal framework. Their decisions are then examined and debated in minute detail years after the fact in the safety of a court room. I think it is a testament to their character and the quality of their training that they get it right in the overwhelming majority of cases.

In cases where the officer may have made a minor mistake, the Courts are increasingly weighing the value of the evidence before automatically excluding it. I think this makes sense to most Canadians.

We expect much of our police officers. They must always act in the public interest and according to the rule of law. We cannot do our jobs if the public does not trust that we will do the right thing. Determining the right way to do the right thing is a challenge each officer faces every day, but the guidance of the Supreme Court will help us get it right.

[Editor's note: The Globe's Kirk Makin published an article Saturday on the increasing willingness of courts to use tainted evidence to secure convictions.]

Bruce Groves: When will the Toronto Police Service start enforcing with law with respect to the CUPE strikers? It's clear that this has not been the case to date.

Chief Bill Blair: On the contrary, the police have been following the rule of law. It is not the role of the police to intervene into a civil matter. The criminal law is quite explicit in excluding certain conduct from criminal sanction during a lawful strike.

This does not mean that picketers can assault people or damage property, but it does give them certain rights regarding a lawful picket at sites related to their employment.

The role of the police is to keep the peace and ensure that the law is being adhered to. Where the actions on a picket line infringe on the rights of the employer or of other citizens, the appropriate remedy is through civil injunction. The police can help enforce a legal injunction but we do not have the power to impose one.

The Police have Industrial Liaison officers who attend every picket site in order to negotiate strike protocols with the Strike Captains. When the picketers do not conform to the established protocols, that fact can enable the City or other affected person to obtain an injunction. This has occurred several times.

I appreciate the frustration that Torontonians are feeling. The strike has not merely been inconvenient, but has had an impact on the quality of life in all of our neighbourhoods.

The police will continue to keep the peace and work to maintain respect and civility during this strike.

[Editor's note: The City has won two injunctions against the unions since the strike began June 22, including one that prevents them from blocking private Wasteco trucks for more than five minutes. Mayor David Miller has said he won't "include or exclude" the possibility of pursuing a similar injunction on delaying private citizens at temporary dump sites.]

Suzanne Creighton: Hi Chief Blair. I study crime and law at university. Would you say it's fair that simply having a larger number of police does not resolve the overall problem of crime? If more police mean that the area has more surveillance, therefore bringing people into the system, isn't that a narrow approach or even a temporary band-aid?

Shouldn't there be funding to genuinely help prevent crime through housing and social programs? What do you really think? I mean, right now the government and the public think the police are the only answer. Thank you.

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