Chief gets spin

Rating: NNNNNchief julian fantino is a busy man these days.So busy that he was recently granted approval by the police.


Rating: NNNNN


chief julian fantino is a busy man these days.So busy that he was recently granted approval by the police services board to hire a scheduling coordinator and speech writer. Total cost to strapped taxpayers: up to a maximum $108,664.

But wait. There’s more. The chief is also asking council to set aside another $100,000 for a “strategic communications’ consultant “to act as a liaison and representative for the chief in dealings with various groups and to address the issue of strategic policy and management.’

Fantino’s office budget alone is already breaking the seven-figure mark, despite the fact that these are scary economic times for the city. Some wonder if Chief Fantino is becoming politician Fantino.

But there’s no question he needs the help. Juggling all those invitations can be a complicated task, especially for a workaholic like Fantino. And “messaging” is very important for a chief of police these days. We wouldn’t want the public to get the wrong idea about why we’re spending $2 million on helicopters and another $2 million on crack police units to bust nuisance offenders.

You’d think, however, that Fantino, being the kind of hands-on guy he is, wouldn’t take kindly to a speech writer re-crafting those tasty pronouncements he’s notorious for.

You know, the ones that usually begin with poetic references to honesty, dignity and, the chief’s favourite, integrity.

On the other hand, a speech pro might have pointed out to the chief before he went on that invasion-of-privacy rant against NOW last week that his address is in the phone book.

As a summary of the job description tabled to the board points out, “There is little margin for error. Inaccuracies pose significant risk to the chief and the service.’

The good news for taxpayers?

The two new positions will be filled from existing civilian ranks and have already been costed in the 2001 budget.

as the highest-ranking blackofficer on the Toronto force, Superintendent Keith Forde gave instant credibility to the force’s efforts to clean up the public complaints system when he was appointed to head the unit a few years ago.But there’s been a more cautious response to Chief Julian Fantino’s recent move to appoint Forde head of community policing.

Skeptical race relations activists with an ear to the ground at police headquarters view the change as an attempt by Fantino to put a friendly face on a troubled unit ­– to “cover his ass,” as one critic puts it.

Who better for that purpose than a black officer with Forde’s creds in the community?

The superintendent is not in the habit of ruffling feathers. He is first and foremost a self-described “100 per cent organizational man.”

But he’s not exactly anticipating smooth times.

“I’m not a yes person. I’m not here to cover the chief. I’m here to do a job. I know there are going to be many programs in here about which I will have a fundamental difference of opinion with the chief. I hope the chief will hear me out.”

Local Cop best

why don’t more of t.o.’s cops livein the city they police? It’s not an issue the force’s braintrust likes to explore.Some think most recruits are only here long enough to get experience so they can bolt to another force in rural Ontario.

Ask Sergeant Rob Knapper of corporate communications, and you’ll get a curt answer about the high cost of housing in T.O.

“I don’t know if the board is willing to pay us the extra $20,000 a year it would cost to live in the city,” Knapper says. He adds that the force doesn’t tabulate what percentage of its officers live outside city limits.

There is, however, some recognition on the part of the police services board that it’s becoming a problem. The board adopted changes in the hiring policy so that points are awarded to potential recruits who live in the city.

Other jurisdictions in North America, like Chicago, have taken the issue a step further and actually require officers to live in the city as a condition of their employment.

“There are certainly arguments in favour of it,” says criminologist Phillip Stenning. “If you live in the place you police, you’re more likely to understand the people and situations you encounter. “‘

enzom@nowtoronto.com

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