Over The Bridge

CTV's new cop show reminds us how dysfunctional police union politics were in this city

Watch the season debut of The Bridge?

You’d have to be a bit of a masochist to be into Canadian-made cop drama on a Friday night, the death slot for TV.

But The Bridge is supposed to be different. CBS has picked up the rights Stateside.

And even the discerning CBC Radio Q host Jian Ghomeshi saw fit to give the series on rival CTV early cred, interviewing its Vancouver-born star of Battlestar Galactica fame in the lead up to Friday’s premiere.

The Bridge is a bit of a bust. But the reason more people will be watching this not quite ready for prime time series is simple. Craig Bromell, the always controversial former Toronto police union head, happens to be executive producer. The travels of the fictitious lead Frank Leo are loosely based on Bromell’s life, although how loosely is difficult to say.

How much of The Bridge is truth, how much of it is Memorex?

The plot lines in episode one look conspicuously like a chapter right out of Bromell’s stormy tenure as union boss. That’s the disturbing part.

Snicker, yes, at the cliché, over-the-top presentation, but The Bridge reminds us just how dysfunctional police union politics were in this city when the Fuck It, Drive On credo of Bromell and Company ruled on the street.

In one scene, a not so veiled replay of the famous wildcat strike at 51 that propelled Bromell to union prominence way back when, Leo intones, “We own this town.” And then adds, “Never again will one of ours be sacrificed on the altar of politics,” or words to that effect.

That’s Bromell speaking. It’s the mindset that informed his way of doing business when he was an untouchable.

Everywhere in this drama, cops are spying on each other, others are on the take, there’s one dirty deal after another, all allegedly undertaken in the name of serving the greater good. Isn’t always like that with cops? A different moral code for them, it seems, because they’re the ones fighting the bad guys.

Smells all too familiar.

Luckily for him, Bromell got out just before the shit really hit the fan and cops, including directors of his former union, started going down on corruption charges when that other bad ass, Julian Fantino, became chief. This town wasn’t big enough for the two of them, so someone had to go. Exit Bromell, who turned to talk radio, legacy left mostly intact.

Besides the usual union monkey business and questions raised from time to time about union spending, Bromie managed to keep his nose pretty much clean during a tumultuous tenure. The most highly-publicized blemish on his record being that out of court settlement he and a few others copped halfway through a lawsuit brought by a homeless man allegedly beaten by cops at Cherry Beach.

Craiger was fond of saying back then that the tough-guy persona was a media construct. That the bad man image, carefully cultivated for maximum media effect after a seminal trip to L.A. to yuck it up with police union buds down there, was more imagined than real.

Curious, given the fire an brimstone portrayal of his character on The Bridge.

The one saving grace is that, thankfully, The Bridge is more glam than actual reflection of police union politics today. And the days of Bromell and the old guard are over. We can only hope.[rsbreak]

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