Under fire since Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair confirmed the existence of the infamous video last week, Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug have been turning their guns on the chief.
Why did the police spend so much on the investigation that yielded a mass of surveillance material about the mayor, they ask. Why did he have to comment on the video when he confirmed its existence last week? And why doesn’t he release it now, as they demand?
Their lawyer, Dennis Morris, has said that the chief is, in essence, trying and convicting the mayor without due process.
Not that they’re going after the police, mind you. “I want to emphasize, I have nothing against the police,” Mayor Ford told John Oakley on AM640 radio on Monday. “We have the best police force in the world. I support those front-line officers that sacrifice their lives every day for us. I never wavered on that.”
The chief is another matter. “Bill Blair has to answer those questions: How much money was spent on it? Everyone’s calling me,” he said. “They want to know how many millions was spent. I don’t know. I think the chief has to come out and say, ‘We did this, we followed Rob around for months and months and months.’ ”
Doug Ford gave a remarkably similar interview to Stephen LeDrew on CP24 television. Note the similar wording, the sign of a planned and co-ordinated attack.
“Rob and I are loyal to the police. We support the police. We support the front-line police officers that put their lives on the line for us every day. And we’ve never wavered from supporting our police,” he said. But “do we differentiate between the front line and maybe the leadership? Absolutely.”
He said it was wrong for the chief to say he was “disappointed” as a citizen at what had transpired. “He is sitting there in the police chief’s uniform and talking as a citizen,” Doug Ford said. “That’s not appropriate.”
All of this comes across as a rather obvious attempt to turn the tables on the chief. Mark Pugash, the police spokesman, said when news of the video broke last week, that he expected to see a “concerted attack” on the investigation, the investigators and the chief of police. That is just what we are seeing.
The Fords’ campaign is full of contradictions. On the one hand, the mayor says he cannot comment on the surveillance material because the matter is before the courts. On the other hand, he rejects the chief’s contention that, because the video might be evidence in court, police cannot release it.
The Fords are law-and-order guys who are tough on crime and support the police, but they think an investigation that happened to involve the mayor was a waste of money.
They want the police to release the video – the video the mayor once said did not exist – but the mayor has refused, on legal advice, to be interviewed by police about the matter.
They want the video to come out so Mayor Ford can explain it, but they won’t explain the accompanying photograph that has already been published – the one showing the mayor with three men, one of whom has been murdered and two of whom were rounded up in a drug raid.
Mr. Blair has been in a tough spot since the start of the Ford affair. If he had let the matter slide, he could have been accused of covering for the mayor. If he investigated, he could be accused of a vendetta against the mayor. The head of the police services board, Alok Mukherjee, says he sees no evidence of that.
Some say Mr. Blair should never have spent all that time and money tailing the mayor and his friend, Alessandro Lisi. Others say his detectives should have rushed in and arrested the pair when they saw mysterious packages being exchanged.
But could the police really ignore it when the mayor of the city was reported to have been seen in a drug video? Once they began investigating, could they jeopardize the whole effort by attempting a bust? Once they found the video on a hard drive, was the chief wrong to say they had it – or to remark that he found it disappointing?
It is what the mayor might call Monday morning quarterbacking. Instead of going after the chief, the mayor might try giving a better account of his own actions.