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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 ...

Chief Bill Blair: The Police are not the only answer, but we are part of the solution.

The presence of the Police, particularly when those officers are able to connect with the people who live our most vulnerable neighbourhoods, can deter crime. It can create an environment where people aren't afraid to use public spaces. It can empower people to get involved with their neighbours, to get involved in community-building activities and to take some responsibility for their own safety.

We don't measure the success of our work by how many people we bring into the system. The more effective measure is how many crimes are prevented, how many fewer people are victimized. Ultimately, the best measure will be in the better choices that young people make, the opportunities that they are given to realize their full potential. It is measured by how safe people feel and whether they can live their lives in peace and in dignity.

These things cannot be achieved where violence is prevalent and where people live in fear. We need to deal effectively with those that would victimize others, but we must also work hard to support all of the good people that need our help. This requires that we work in partnership with schools, youth workers, community service organizations, the business sector and will other government agencies. It requires that we build a respectful and trusting relationship with all of the people that we serve.

It most importantly requires that we help young people realize their full potential, and engage with them to make our communities safe and livable places.

[Editor's note: Today's Globe and Mail included a look at some of the people working in the community, including those trying to give youth other options.]

Tom Beshoff: Toronto police did nothing during the illegal Tamil protest. And they're doing nothing while strikers are breaking the law in blocking transfer stations. Why?

Chief Bill Blair: Some people who claim to be advocating for the rule of law frequently just mean that they want the law to be used to advance their interest. It doesn't work that way.

During the Tamil demonstrations, Torontonians had to put up with the inconvenience of minor traffic disruptions and the noise of the demonstrators. There was no threat to public safety. No one was being hurt and no property was being damaged. Some relatively minor bylaws were being broken, but none of them could possible justify the use of force advocated by some. Our first job is public safety and the use of force in such circumstances would have created a more dangerous situation.

We live in a democratic society. All Canadians enjoy basic fundamental freedoms and it is a responsibility of the police to protect and defend those freedoms in our society. This requires a careful balancing of competing values and opinions, but in the end public safety must prevail.

I think that the best measure of the effectiveness of our response is the fact that we managed the largest demonstrations of their kind, without injury or damage. The roads were blocked for less time than occurs each week during the summer construction and festival season, and the rights of all Canadians were respected.

Josh Wingrove: I'm afraid that brings our time to an end. Thank you for your time, Chief Blair. This has been an excellent opportunity to reach out to Globe and Mail readers, and the people of Toronto, about the issues facing the community. Any last words?

Chief Bill Blair: I am grateful for the opportunity to answer your readers' questions and to explain some of the challenges that we face. The police are most effective when we can engage with the people that we serve. Public safety is really a shared responsibility.

It is also helpful to know what people are thinking about and the concerns that they have. We will continue to do our best to keep people informed and involved with our efforts to keep Toronto safe. Thanks for facilitating the dialogue.

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