Police chief Julian Fantino has all but given up hope he'll still be Toronto's top cop come this time next year. Indeed, he seemed resigned to that eventuality when he trudged to a podium at police headquarters Monday afternoon, May 3, to read out the 26 criminal charges laid against four 52 Division officers, including one son of former chief Bill McCormack and the waylaid president of the Toronto Police Association, Rick McIntosh.
From across the small cop shop auditorium, it looked as though the chief might have shed a few tears as he prepared to mouth the phrases "conspiracy to commit, breach of trust, accepting a benefit, frauds on the government and influence peddling" in front of the whirr of television cameras.
"I think this is the worst day, the worst kind of situation, any police chief faces," Fantino said. And it sounded and looked like he meant and felt every word he spoke.
The chief certainly wasn't his old self when it came to deflecting questions from the inquisitive media.
Only when a reporter raised the matter of Mayor David Miller being caught on tape making an offhand quip about the city's cop corruption crisis landing the entire force in jail did Fantino get even slightly combative.
"That's a closed issue and I'm not going to comment on it, so why are you asking?" he snapped. And then the chief laughed nervously.
As it happened, the next time Citytv left a camera running unbeknownst to folks attending a conference of urban politicians, it caught Mississauga and Markham mayors Hazel McCallion and Don Cousens having a little tête-à-tête about their Toronto colleague's gaffe.
But it wasn't Miller who got the bad reviews. It was Fantino who was roundly taken to task for being overdramatic in a bid to politicize the situation.
"It's all political," McCallion advised as a laughing Cousens endeavoured to pull a pointy piece of imaginary timber from the left side of his chest, a reference to Fantino's remark that Miller's comments made him feel as though "someone has driven a stake through my heart."
This corruption crisis has been brewing for most of the past four years. The fact that it's boiling over now makes things worse for Fantino.
"The police chief will have to spend the next few years with a board that isn't going to rubber-stamp everything he proposes," says one source well acquainted with the current situation. "Unfortunately for him, times have changed politically, and after being in control for such a long time, I'm not sure he's going to like dancing with a partner."
Some police sources maintain that Fantino has read the writing on the wall. He knows he can't come out on top in a power struggle with a new board demanding to be intimately involved in both setting and implementing police policy.
What he'll fight for instead of reappointment is a legacy. And given the present circumstances, that will supposedly be a police force cleaned up from top to bottom by the time he walks away from the job.
"I don't think he wants to go out with a smell lingering from his time in office," says a source who has worked closely with Fantino. "He takes these charges and the circumstances that led to them very seriously. He is offended by them and wants to leave the house in order."
This may help explain the increasingly personal tone of Fantino's remarks concerning the ongoing investigation of his troubled department.
"At the end of the day," he said Monday, "it's a job that has to be done. It comes with the territory. It comes with the fact that we're all human and we have our failings and we just have to march on."
Judging by his body language, that march may have to go on without Julian Fantino.