If Julian Fantino really wants to stay on as Toronto's police chief, he can fill out a job application and send it in with everyone else who might be interested in the next contract. Just imagine. Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford won't have to run around town getting names on a petition for a useless bid to have the police services board reverse its decision not to extend Fantino's employment.
"The decision has been made on this contract," Councillor Pam McConnell, vice-chair of the beleaguered police board, says of the work agreement that will not be extended past March 30. But McConnell adds with a hint of caution in her voice, "Another contract is another day and another story, and there's always a possibility that Chief Fantino could be one of the candidates."
All he'll have to do is throw his hat into the ring. Officially. Of course, this would be a novel approach for Fantino. He got the job five years ago after repeatedly insisting he had no interest in leaving his post as chief of the York Region police and without ever making a formal bid for the position. It was delivered to him on a platter courtesy of the Lastmanites at City Hall, aided and abetted by their allies among the Harris Tories at Queen's Park.
It won't be quite that simple next time. Yet there are concerns that the Liberals could tip the scales in the chief's favour come September when they name police board members to replace tarnished former chair Norm Gardner and Dr. Benson Lau.
By voting with unabashed Fantino fans Councillor Case Ootes and retired judge Hugh Locke (the initial Grit replacement for Tory Al Leach), the two new Queen's Park appointees could ensure a situation where meeting the new chief means meeting the old chief.
The pro-Fantino Toronto Sun has already editorialized this week in favour of the Liberals doing whatever it takes to maintain the status quo at the top around police headquarters. And the local tabloid's campaign was lent considerable legitimacy by Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, who recently told an Italian-language newspaper that Mayor David Miller "has to assume officially the responsibility" for Fantino's contract not being renewed and should "not keep pretending that he has nothing to do with it.
"Regardless of the judgment we can make on Mr. Fantino's job, many people agree that the chief of police has not been properly treated by this (Miller's) administration," Sorbara told Corriere Canadese.
Although a spokesman for the finance minister later insisted Sorbara was "merely expressing opinions of his constituents," those constituents don't live in Toronto. And they don't vote here either. They cast their ballots in Vaughan-King-Aurora, where (as was reported in this space last week) the provincial Tories are hoping to enlist Fantino as their star candidate against a supposedly vulnerable Sorbara come the next Ontario vote.
Would Premier Dalton McGuinty and company stack the police board with pro-Fantino appointees so the chief will see no reason to consider a career in electoral politics and spare the finance minister a serious challenge? We'll just have to wait and see who shows up at the September meeting of the new board.
By then, McConnell hopes the board will have a good field of candidates for chief from both inside and outside the Toronto police service.
"I think we stand up to any international city and should look to any international city in terms of our recruitment."
In spite of the corruption scandal and political problems, McConnell insists that "being the police chief of Toronto is a very attractive position and as such will attract a variety of excellent candidates."
Already, three names have emerged as leading contenders from within the force. Staff Superintendent Bill Blair, the head of detective operations, was on the board's short list in 1999 until Fantino came along to claim the chief's hat. Staff Superintendent Jane Dick, the department's highest-ranking female officer, is in the process of conducting a major management review of 52 Division, the precinct hardest hit by recent corruption charges.
And Superintendent Keith Forde, the highest-ranking visible minority officer on the Toronto police service, was a community-policing commander before he was named to head the police's C.O. Bick College last year.
The outsiders most often mentioned include RCMP Chief Superintendents John Neily and Ben Soave (who both headed corruption investigations of the Toronto force) and Christine Silverberg, the former Calgary police chief who got her start with police departments in Peel and Hamilton-Wentworth. Silverberg is now articling with a Calgary law firm.
It's still early days, of course. McConnell maintains it will likely be early in the new year before the board makes its final choice.
"Who will be chosen as the new chief is very much open for discussion," she says. That discussion will become all the more intriguing should Julian Fantino's job application somehow end up on her desk.