There were a number of reasons why the new, improved Toronto Police Services Board met at city hall instead of police headquarters this week in order to deal with its current messy scandal, according to Councillor Pam McConnell, board vice chair.
Simple convenience was one, symbolism another. City hall is the "centre of our democracy," Ms. McConnell explained after Thursday's emergency meeting, and she has long advocated that more police board meetings be held there.
Then there was the third reason, which went unsaid (though not unacknowledged) by the clearly disquieted civilian overseers: safety. There are no microphones, hidden or otherwise, in city administrator Shirley Hoy's office on the 11th floor of the east tower.
There are no spies taking notes about highly sensitive, ostensibly private discussions.
There is no chance that stray comments will be reconstructed into "internal correspondence" and filed away for future use in sleazy smear campaigns against any one of them.
Who wouldn't take precautions after what happened to lawyer Alan Heisey less than a month after being elected chair of the police board -- and announcing a modest, long-overdue reform agenda? The victim himself has described the smear as "scandalous," "disgusting," "pernicious" and "evil." But for citizens with a less personal, emotional involvement in this business, it's just plain scary.
"We don't want to make any mistakes," Ms. McConnell repeated three times, explaining the board's response to the mysterious appearance of police memos criticizing what one called Mr. Heisey's "bent perspective on child pornography and pedophiles." Thus the board appointed a lawyer to investigate the remarks, made at a sex-crime convention almost two years ago, to find out what really happened -- and what was actually said.
Meanwhile, it is leaving the far more important job of investigating the source of the smear to police chief Julian Fantino. "I feel badly for [Mr. Heisey]" the chief said Thursday. "I feel badly for all of us."
Everyone shares Mr. Fantino's pain when confronted with yet more evidence that elements in the police service continue to pursue sleazy vendettas against their perceived enemies. Whether it's former police union boss Craig Bromell promising to "target our enemies" or the still-unidentified creeps circulating ridiculous innuendo about pedophilia, police vendettas have given Torontonians ample opportunity in recent years to feel very badly indeed.
Ms. McConnell made it clear that the reform board will pursue the matter if the chief's investigation proves "insufficient." But the board's investigation of Mr. Heisey's remarks, she added, should be finished within a few weeks.
In fact, the board decided to order the inquiry only because Ms. McConnell lacked the votes needed to bury the memos forever. No fair-minded reviewer, no matter how closely they parsed the old events and comments, could ever recommend treating them otherwise.
Reviewing both leaked memos, the first from Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie of the sex-crimes unit and the second from Staff Superintendent Rocky Cleveland, one gets the queasy feeling that Mr. Heisey's crime at that conference two years ago was overestimating his auditors.
As a lawyer conditioned to the conventions of open and sophisticated dialogue, Mr. Heisey went to the conference to learn more about sex crimes, and was astonished when police told him that some involved babies. According to his own account of the conversation, he said that he understood some perverts exploit children but never expressed approval of the practice. "It disgusts me," he said.
But that encounter inspired Det.-Sgt. Gillespie to type up a sarcastic memo identifying "Mr. A Milliken Heisey" as an ignoramus, commenting on ". . . the beautiful body of an 8-year-old."
"What's next," Staff-Supt. Cleveland wondered in a note forwarding the Gillespie report to Chief Fantino, "the benefits of mind-expanding LSD and Heroin?"
The board doesn't need a lawyer to quash these inane observations; a rookie kindergarten teacher could do it. But the process of discovering what happened to the memos -- how they were used and by whom -- will be much trickier.
The investigation won't go anywhere if it doesn't begin with Norm Gardner, the deposed police board chair. In his memo to the chief, Staff-Supt. Cleveland noted that Mr. Gardner, then board chair, was asking about the case against Mr. Heisey even before the alleged conversation was recorded. Chief Fantino said this week that he "took the matter to the board chair" as soon as he heard about it -- and left it there. Mr. Gardner said he filed the memos away and forgot about them.
Mr. Gardner also said that he discussed the affair with two board colleagues, Councillors Gloria Lindsay-Luby and Frances Nunziata, both of whom immediately denied that any such conversations took place.
"I would have remembered it," the former said, flatly dismissing Mr. Gardner's claim.
Nobody knows what happened to the memos then, until they began appearing on fax machines all over the city last week.
Councillor McConnell commented on the fact that the leak occurred at the same time as the ritual humiliation of Mr. Gardner at a civilian complaint hearing last week, noting ". . . we currently have two issues on the front page."
Commenting at the coincidental disciplinary hearing, both Mr. Gardner and Mr. Bromell urged that Mr. Heisey be removed from the board pending a formal inquiry into the former chair's allegedly "bent" perspective.
The only good news in the whole affair is that these days so few seem to share the equally bent perspective of Mr. Bromell and Mr. Gardner -- who apparently believe these accusations are credible. They are the bad old days personified and both are on their way out.
As for Mr. Heisey, he held a ballroom full of senior Toronto police officers spellbound during a keynote speech at a retirement dinner for Deputy Chief Mike Boyd on Thursday night.
"You could have heard a pin drop" in the Hilton ballroom, Councillor Kyle Rae said. In extolling Mr. Boyd, Mr. Rae added, the undeposed police board chair talked a lot about decency. "That was the biggest word that came out -- decency."
Alan Heisey, in other words, is a class act whose fate will not be determined by anonymous sleazeballs.