A selection of the confiscated guns.
It was a virtuoso recital. And it was all between the carefully chosen words that made it to air.
Chief Bill Blair's high noon press conference on Thursday, June 13, was ostensibly called to announce a major guns and gangs bust, aka Project Traveller, a year-long investigation that culminated in dozes of arrests, including at the very Dixon Road high rise where that (alleged) video of Rob Ford smoking crack might have been hiding.
But there would be few details beyond the numbers arrested and drugs and guns seized, beyond some nice words about the police continuing to crack down on violent crime.
That's because the presser was also designed to send a message, to tell the residents of Toronto that the chief has got the city's back on that Rob Ford crack thing.
Between photos of the mayor with gangbangers, shady characters terrorizing Rexdale with lead pipes looking for the alleged video, and a mysterious fall from a six-floor balcony across the country in Fort McMurray, a signal had to be sent by senior command to reassure the public that the cops are on the case.
On that count, time was quickly running out on the chief. Toronto the Good? People were beginning to wonder if the cops were running interference for the mayor given all the static around the alleged video and the deafening silence in the way of public comment from the chief himself.
Is it not a matter of overriding public interest for the police to respond, after all, when the guy occupying the highest office in the city is allegedly cavorting with gangsters, and there's photographic evidence to prove it?
Blair called any suggestion from one reporter that cops might be covering for the mayor "unacceptable." When he was asked in a follow up if he personally had any concerns that some among the rank and file might be running interference for the chief magistrate, though, he paused long and hard before answering with a terse, "No."
Ford wouldn't be the first politician afforded generous leeway by the boys in blue in regards to what he may or may not be doing in his spare time. His connection to the constabulary in his Etobicoke backyard goes way back.
It's also true that the police department is notorious for its fiefdoms. Which may explain why, despite reports to the contrary, other cops at the scene of the raids were quoted as saying that the arrests had nothing to do with the mayor or the ongoing crack video scandal.
But even as the chief was doing his utmost not to answer in any specifics on that, or whether the Ford crack video formed any part of the evidence collected, unnamed police sources, high-ranking ones at that, were leaking news to several media outlets that the cops knew about the video even before news broke on Gawker four weeks ago. And that that information may have come from police wiretaps. Coincidence? We'd be naïve to think so.
Certainly, there was more than the usual number of senior officers in white shirts present at the chief's presser. Indeed, Blair suggested at one point that the cops may indeed have the video every one in town wants to see.
To quote: "I want to assure the people of Toronto that all of the evidence collected during this investigation has been secured and it will be presented by the prosecuting Crown attorney at trial. All of the evidence will come out in court where it belongs."
He bristled when asked why the mayor had not been notified of the raids. "I don't answer to the mayor," Blair said.
Technically he's right. The chief of police answers to the Police Services Board. The last thing we need is a chief controlled by the mayor's office.
But a professional courtesy would usually be extended in such cases. Blair made a point of noting that information about police operations is only disseminated "on a need-to-know" basis. In other words, if Ford is indeed the subject of any related investigation then of course he would not have been notified.
It's also no secret that Blair and Ford don't see eye to eye. They never have. Truth is, the mayor has been working to get rid of Blair. Could Thursday's fascinating theatre be an elaborate smokescreen? After the G20 mess - Blair may never outlive that debacle - the question can fairly be asked.
After all, it could take years for all of this to play out in the courts. Blair might be gone by then. Ford? Who knows.
Blair has his own problems. It seems he may not be in total control of the rank and file. The chief has starred in his own video recently, this one telling those among his charges acting like "idiots" and discrediting the uniform t smarten up. Apparently there may be a rogue element at work.
Historically, the police force has tended to take on the personality of the guy sitting in the mayor's chair. And judging by the number showing up in court these days to answer to alleged transgressions, a few may seem to think they can bend the rules because Rob's got their back. Yesterday's presser by the chief restored a little faith that the good guys are on the case.