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Umar Zameer reacts beside lawyer Alexandra Heine during a news conference following his not-guilty verdict, in Toronto, on April 21.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw sought to contain criticism Tuesday over a comment he made wishing for a different outcome in the acquittal of a man jurors determined had accidentally killed one of his officers, saying he accepts the verdict but that his force is still grieving.

A firestorm erupted after Chief Demkiw reacted Sunday to the acquittal of Umar Zameer. In a statement, the chief said he respected the judicial process, then added: “I share the feelings of our members who were hoping for a different outcome.”

On Tuesday, a provincial group representing 46 law associations and about 12,000 lawyers said Chief Demkiw’s original comments were hurting the justice system because they undermined the public’s confidence in the judicial process.

As well, a veteran member of the police services board predicted the chief’s comments, as well as the case itself, would be a key topic of private conversation at a coming board meeting.

Chief Demkiw, questioned repeatedly by reporters at an unrelated police event Tuesday, said he welcomed the chance to clarify his views to them.

“On Sunday I thought I was clear that I supported the justice system and the work of the jury. You know, as I look back, let me be emphatic about that,” he said.

“What I was trying to convey is that I accept the jury’s findings and we’re an organization that’s grieving and trying to work through finding some path towards closure.”

Mr. Zameer was acquitted Sunday on first-degree murder charges after killing an undercover police officer with his vehicle in an underground parking garage in downtown Toronto.

He testified that he had no idea it was plainclothes police officers rushing his vehicle, which also contained his young child and pregnant wife. While trying to get away, he testified, he unknowingly ran over Detective Constable Jeffrey Northrup.

Three officers testified that the constable was hit while standing in front of the vehicle with his hands up. Two collision reconstruction experts, including the prosecution’s, testified that it did not happen that way.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy, who has been on the bench for three decades, told jurors they had to consider whether the three police witnesses colluded, because they all gave the same inaccurate testimony.

Toronto Councillor Shelley Carroll who rejoined the police services board last week after sitting on it from 2014 through 2018, said she would be “gob-smacked” if the Zameer decision and its aftermath doesn’t come up during the in-camera session that starts next week’s meeting.

Toronto’s police chief has disqualified himself from that job

“It would always be a natural next step,” she said in an interview Tuesday morning.

“The chief’s just gone through, first of all, a landmark decision and then, you know, in a bit of a communications debate with the community. All of that is the kind of thing that gets debriefed in a board discussion, in my experience.”

Ms. Carroll said she could not comment on the chief’s conduct or whether he should continue in the role.

“The next conversations can happen in the right rooms. And the board room is the next right room.”

Later Tuesday, a board adviser forwarded a statement on behalf of chair Ann Morgan that said that the board “continues to have full confidence in Chief Demkiw, and is working with him to ensure public trust in the service.”

Other board members declined interviews, could not be reached or did not respond to media enquiries.

In response to the “adverse comments” made by the judge in her ruling, Chief Demkiw announced Monday his force had requested a review by the Ontario Provincial Police, a rare step that is the result of a new internal review process, said Stephanie Sayer, spokeswoman for the Toronto Police Service.

The OPP has agreed to take up the review.

Ms. Sayer said the process is to “help us identify cases with adverse judicial comments” and which involve “a critical narrative about members of the service.”

She added that this new policy, which is not being released publicly, does not generally lead to external probes by the Ontario Provincial Police.

“I’m not aware of another instance where the TPS has asked the OPP to review adverse judicial comments, of which the Service receives fewer than a dozen a year,” Ms. Sayer said.

“It’s also important to note that negative judicial commentary does not necessarily constitute misconduct.”

Meaghan Gray, a spokeswoman for the Toronto Police Association, the union representing officers, declined to comment on whether there has been any professional repercussions for the officers whose testimony was questioned by the judge.

“We appreciate the focus is on the testimony of our members, but it is important to note that this case was subject to an investigation, Crown discretion, and a preliminary inquiry before being put to a jury for ultimate determination,” Ms. Gray said in an e-mailed statement.

The Federation of Ontario Law Associations, representing lawyers and law associations, decried the original response by the police chief to the ruling, and also criticized comments made by Premier Doug Ford earlier in the case when he denounced the court’s decision to give Mr. Zameer bail.

“The reaction of police leadership to the court’s ruling are examples of the type of conduct by law enforcement that brings the administration of justice into disrepute and undermines public confidence in our judicial process,” Douglas Judson, chair of FOLA, said in a statement.

At the time, Mr. Ford called the bail decision “beyond comprehension.” He initially said Mr. Zameer was “the person responsible for this heinous crime,” later rewording the post to reflect that he had been only charged.

“Those comments had no merit,” Mr. Judson said. “That was true then, per the bail judge’s reasons, and it remains true today.”

Asked Tuesday whether he should apologize and whether he regretted the post, Mr. Ford declined to answer directly.

“At that time, I had limited information,” he said. “The courts have decided, the jury decided and you have to respect the justice system.”

With reports from Colin Freeze and Jeff Gray

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