You've got to wonder why members of the police services board even bothered hiring a headhunter to search far and wide for potential police chiefs when what they wanted all along was candidates with homegrown experience.
In fact, the shortlist from which former staff superintendent Bill Blair was chosen over former deputy chief Mike Boyd last week was the very same "interim command" the board appointed in late January.
Back then, Boyd was considered the front-runner to succeed Julian Fantino as top cop.
But sources say Blair leapfrogged over his one-time superior with a stellar performance at the final interviews, which didn't include a single candidate from outside the force. In fact, the only other candidate to get face time with the board was another local, Superintendent Gary Ellis.
This is hardly surprising considering that board chair Pam McConnell made it pretty clear what she and her colleagues were looking for when Boyd and Blair were named acting chief and acting deputy chief 10 weeks ago.
"We need someone who knows the organization who's done a good job and who has a wide breadth of experience," McConnell said then. In other words, anyone who hadn't done serious police work in a culturally diverse city of 2.5 million people was going to be a very long shot.
Still, not everyone was happy with narrowing the search. Superintendent Keith Forde, the highest-ranking black cop in T.O., speaking to NOW just before Blair's selection, hoped the board would consider slotting in a chief from elsewhere.
"I've often observed in the U.S. and Britain how mobile the police chiefs are, but historically we rarely take an outside candidate. Instead, we hone our own,' he said.
He warned about the downside to an inside hire. "To change the culture of some police organizations, movement at the top is necessary. I think Toronto has been very, very late to encourage this type of movement at command level. Police culture is such that we'll do something the same way for 10, 15, 20 years. In order to be the chief, you have to amass experience from another organization.'
It was not to be, of course. Blair won in what sources indicate was a four-two vote. Word is, he managed to appeal to Fantino fans Case Ootes and Hugh Locke without completely alienating the so-called progressive contingent.
Boyd, on the other hand, went full bore after the progressives without considering that the board might be in the mood for a compromise after many months of rancour. Boyd may well have been McConnell's first pick, but she also had a lot of positive experience with Blair when he was in charge of 51 Division in the heart of her inner-city ward. McConnell later said the new chief got the job based on his "approachability, impressive experience and commitment to community outreach."
Clearly, he also has a very good understanding of politics, and there will be lots more of it come June, when Mayor David Miller joins the police board.
Don't expect the change from dysfunctional acrimony to sit all that well with everyone at City Hall - particularly with those politicians who don't share the chief magistrate's views on cop shop accountability.
It was once widely believed that Councillor Pam McConnell would leave the board when Miller joined it. After all, the Ward 28 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) councillor was appointed to represent the mayor's interests following the 03 municipal election. When Miller takes a seat on the board, McConnell would appear infinitely more dispensable than the other two council appointees, John Filion and Case Ootes.
But Ootes's penchant for attacking both McConnell and Filion (not to mention Miller) as anti-cop, and his unsuccessful attempts to overturn the board's ouster of Fantino make the Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) councillor a more likely candidate for removal when council does a mid-term shuffle.
If all goes according to plan, McConnell - who stepped in to chair the board in February after Alan Heisey stepped down - will be appointed as Ootes's replacement.
This isn't likely to sit well with the right-of-centre crowd, who'll accuse Miller of ignoring their political constituency in order to push a left-wing agenda. But well-placed sources say McConnell's position as chair on a board well-populated with progressive newcomers makes her virtually indispensable for the moment.
And the mayor is loath to remove Filion from the board after he helped McConnell keep things on a progressive track in the face of opposition from Ootes and provincial government appointee Hugh Locke, a retired judge.
City Hall sources suggest McConnell will step down as police board chair before this council term ends in October 2006, and vice-chair Alok Mukherjee, the human rights activist appointed to the board by council last fall, will most likely take over the leadership role.
In the meantime, the city waits for Queen's Park to name its third appointee to what's supposed to be a seven-member police board. The Liberals appointed former journalist and diversity consultant Hamlin Grange to the board earlier this year.