On Wednesday, oversight of the investigation into Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was passed from the Toronto Police to the Ontario Provincial Police. Good.
Handing ultimate responsibility for Project Brazen 2 over to the OPP makes sense. Toronto detectives will remain on the case, and will continue to pursue it. But they will report to OPP senior officers, who will also be responsible for vetting any possible future criminal charges. Putting a cautionary distance between the police chief and the chief magistrate his force is investigating will not change the substance of the investigation. But it will remove any possible public doubt that justice is being executed impartially.
The brothers Ford, councillor Doug and mayor Rob, have done their best to suggest that the police are running some kind of a vendetta against them, led by Police Chief Bill Blair. It obviously isn't true, but this is a classic Ford manoeuvre: Smear your opponents.
In fact, in his public handling of the case, Chief Blair has made mistakes. But they are minor. When he revealed last year that police were in possession of the video showing Mr. Ford high on crack, Mr. Blair allowed that he was "disappointed" by what he'd seen. He should have said nothing, and avoided injecting himself into the story. Similarly, the chief should have withheld comment on the Steak Queen video – where Mr. Ford speaks in Jamaican patois, and among other things calls the chief a "c---sucker." The chief called it a "filthy obscenity" – which it was – and said he was "deeply offended" – which he had a right to be. But he should have bit his tongue.
But none of this justifies the Fords' increasingly desperate and implausible attacks on the police, and on Chief Blair. The Fords continue to claim that the mayor's problem is not booze, blow and criminal associations, but rather a cabal of media, police and rival politicians. Last week, Doug Ford tried to claim that the police chief, together with a Police Services Board member and mayoral candidate John Tory, are somehow conspiring against the Fords. He said the chief had "gone rogue" and "might as well stick a John Tory button."
It is the Fords, not the police, who have tried to politicize the police investigation. Bringing in the OPP, a force with no connection to city government, is a way of protecting the integrity of that investigation – and insulating its evidence from the Fords' smears.