building a trust-filled organization can be a daunting task at the best of times, and even harder when that organization is a police force. No one's finding that out more quickly than Julian Fantino.This week was supposed to be a high-water mark for the chief and his force. A chance to show his stuff to the crème de la crème of law enforcement, who were in town for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference.
You couldn't help but feel Fantino's pride as he shared the flag-festooned stage Monday at the meeting's first assembly with, among others, FBI director Robert Mueller, who gave a speech at the gathering.
By Tuesday, however, Fantino was fending off questions about a no-confidence vote the police union says it intends to hold on his leadership. The timing couldn't have been worse.
Tensions between Toronto Police Association president Craig Bromell and the chief have been brewing for months. So bad have things been that minor quarrels about the use of police fax machines for union business have exploded into full-blown court battles.
Much dirty laundry has been aired.
Details emerging from one downtown courtroom are particularly disturbing in what they say about Fantino's ability to implement a much-needed crackdown on problem cops. It's been revealed that one of Fantino's senior officers bucked the chief to leak sensitive details to a lawyer defending cops who allegedly pocketed money from a drug bust. The case is an indication not only of how many feathers Fantino is ruffling but also of what some in the force feel about his leadership.
It would all be front-page news were we not living in the post-September 11 era. In a twisted way, the incident that changed the world has helped to save what to date can only be characterized as a moribund term.
There's been no kiddie porn ring to entice the media, as there was in London, where the chief ruled for several years. No corruption scandal of higher-ups to clean up, as there was at his last gig in York region. Instead, Fantino's sojourn in the Big Smoke has been occupied mostly with campaigns to rid the streets of graffiti and to ticket cyclists who don't make full stops at stop signs.
The anti-terrorism hysteria could end up saving his ass. And he knows it. He's squeezing it for all it's worth.
A master at using public hysteria to pad his bloated budget, he issued his usual warnings about the force needing more money -- an extra $60 million, to be exact -- to fight the threat. Sixty mil would go a long way toward buying loyalties and righting a ship that, to hear Bromell and others tell it, is headed for the rocks.
Of course, all organizations, especially police, are hypersensitive to change.
Chiefs who attempt to impose a modern corporate model on what is essentially a military organization are bound to knock heads with unions trying to protect their members and senior officers hell-bent on guarding their turf. All the ingredients are there for fear, distrust and disaster. A leader has to walk a tightrope.
And in this regard, the criticisms being levelled at Fantino range from his authoritarian management style to the mundane, like his edict requiring cops to take lunch at prescribed hours.
Permeating it all is the personality conflict between two control freaks: Fantino, the force unto himself, and Bromell, the immovable object.
As Robert Rogers, CEO of the Pittsburgh-based Development Dimensions International, points out in a paper presented at the police chiefs conference this week, "Without high trust, no effort can succeed."
Rogers says that creating a vision that promotes trust requires fostering "an environment where leaders seek ideas from others.
"A vicious cycle begins," says Rogers, "when leaders distrust what people tell them and when employees don't trust their leaders enough to tell (them) the truth."
Rogers could have been talking about Fantino. Senior officers won't tell him what they think for fear of recriminations.
He's already managed to do that with the rank and file, who've been on a de facto work-to-rule campaign for months now.
A police force whose officers will do no more than required, says Kevin Gilmartin, another presenter at the conference, has taken the first step down the road toward corruption. "Acts of omission," he says, "become acts of commission.
Gilmartin says, "The only thing cops control is their integrity -- and it's the first thing malcontent cops are willing to sell out."