These god-awful barricades police have been putting up around cop shops are sticking out like sore thumbs all over town - or is that a middle finger? Chief Bill Blair promised to build bridges, not put up fences. Why isn't the police services board ordering them torn down?
The issue Whether a police service that preaches openness and accountability and is trying to build bridges with the public should be erecting 2.5-metre barriers around police stations.
The official explanation The force says the fences are needed to protect officers' vehicles and keep out vandals. According to one media report, the fences are also needed to block the view of gang-bangers looking to attack rival gang members being brought in and prevent hackers from tapping into police data. No, that's no joke, although Chief Bill Blair's spokesperson, Mark Pugash, tells us he doesn't know where the media got the gangs explanation.
A likely excuse There may be a lot of dumb-ass criminals out there, but we doubt many of them would venture into a police parking lot to rip off cops right under their noses. Even if the odd Johnny Dangerous were crazy enough to try, does that justify spending millions to erect walls around stations?
What's really behind the barricades The Toronto Police Association, the union representing city police, whose paranoid bellyaching about officers' safety and security was behind the decision to build the fences in the first place. Perhaps they don't want people running licence plate searches and discovering that most coppers live in the 905.
What the police services board is calling for A moratorium on the building of new fences "pending a full review."
Why it's too little too late Nine of the 17 proposed fences have already been built and no one on the board is actually talking about tearing the existing monstrosities down. They say costs are too prohibitive.
Why a freeze on construction of the fences is unlikely Read the fine print. The board has only "asked" the chief for a moratorium, not actually ordered one. And the safety and security of his men and women in black, the chief could argue, is an operational matter over which the board, according to the Police Services Act, has no authority. Gotcha.
Who we can thank for this mess We'd like to lay blame at the feet of us-versus-them, community-policing-hating former chief Julian Fantino. Cash for the fences was approved on his watch. But if the current board had any backbone, it would order the chief to halt construction of any new fences, period.
What the players say
"It may sound surprising and unlikely, I know, but we've had people found in police parking lots with guns. People with legitimate police business can still go through the front door. Our stations are as accessible as they've ever been."
Mark Pugash, spokesperson, Toronto police
"The decision to erect the fences was taken before my time. I do not believe the board actually approved the fences, and quite likely never saw the design."
Police services board chair Alok Mukherjee "Back to the drawing board. I'm not saying tear them down, but there are things that can be done architecturally to humanize these fences so police stations don't look like fortresses." Police services board member John Filion "The mayor's position is consistent with that of the board. He's hoping a solution can be reached that addresses everyone's concerns." Stuart Green, deputy communications director, office of Mayor David Miller