Toronto police chief Julian Fantino is a master when it comes to spinning the media to further his law-and-order agenda. But watch out if the chief loses control of the message. As veteran RCMP officer Bob Stenhouse has learned, Fantino doesn't take kindly to counterspin.
Stenhouse, a dedicated officer who was frustrated at the RCMP's unfocused efforts to curb biker gangs in Alberta, is facing dismissal for leaking a national police plan to writer Yves Lavigne.
In the mid-1990s, through his involvement with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, Fantino headed up the "national strategy" on outlaw motorcycle gangs.
The release of the material to Lavigne, who published it in his recent book, Hells Angels At War, is embarrassing for Fantino because it suggests that the chief's national strategy was mainly about hyping the threat of biker gangs to the media to put pressure on governments for more police funding.
Although the leaked material didn't compromise any investigation, Fantino testified at Stenhouse's recent disciplinary hearing that he "felt totally betrayed" and considered the leak "a corrupt practice."
Fantino also took offence when defence lawyer Anita Szabo asked the chief if his national strategy focusing on squeezing more money out of the federal government wasn't "borderlining on the unethical."
This isn't the first time Fantino has flipped out at adverse media coverage or internal leaks. Here are a few of his other recent tangles:
-- When NOW published a picture of his house, Fantino became irate and appealed to advertisers to boycott the paper. Curiously, the chief's outburst came just as the media was hyping mysterious gang threats against the police and Fantino was hitting up the police services board for a $36-million budget increase.
-- Similarly, he went berserk a few years back when University of Guelph student newspaper the Peak published an unflattering article about him. The unhappy chief called on advertisers to pull out.
-- Five years ago, just as the province was considering legalizing video lottery terminals, a secret report by the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario (CISO) outlining organized crime links to gambling in the province found its way into the hands of journalists. As a result, then-CISO chair Fantino ordered an OPP investigation into the leak. Southam Queen's Park reporter Richard Brennan (now with the Toronto Star) and CTV's Andrew Mitrovica (now with the Globe and Mail) were both questioned by the cops.
"They investigated hard, and I can remember the investigator telling me that it (the leaked report) had caused a shit-storm and that Fantino was feeling the heat," Mitrovica recalls.
Fantino never did find the leaker in that case. firstname.lastname@example.org