2 min

An interview with Julian Fantino

A former Toronto police commissioner who interviewed Julian Fantino for police chief five years ago says that the cop just can’t do the job.

“I don’t think [Fantino] has the management skills to do this, but he certainly doesn’t have the community relations skills,” says Laura Rowe, a lesbian who sat on the Toronto Police Services Board for two terms in the early ’90s. “Not just in relations with the gay community, but I think generally in terms of culture and race and all kinds of other things.

“He’s got a very old-fashioned attitude that won’t translate well, and that didn’t translate well when he was a division head.”

Indeed, while a Toronto superintendent, Fantino was caught leaking crimes stats by race.

Then, as London chief, he had scores of gay men arrested in what was billed as an anti kiddie-porn round-up. Ended up, few charges had anything to do with kiddie porn. Many were thrown out.

“He just wasn’t able to bridge a lot of the gaps in that community because he’s so rigid,” Rowe says. “There’s not a lot of room to move with Julian Fantino. He’s proven that in his other jobs.”

And there have been a number of jobs, something else Rowe doesn’t like.

“There’s something disturbing about the way he left the Metro force to become the chief in London and then moved to York,” she says. “It’s sort of like every job becoming a stepping stone just to eventually come back and apply for chief again here.

“When there are a lot of people who stayed here and worked hard to come up through the ranks – I just think [hiring from outside] is bad form.”

With a decision expected before the year is out, the issue has heated-up in recent weeks.

All the controversy, Rowe says, could be Fantino’s undoing, just like it was last time around.

But could he be the man?

“Oh yeah, I think that’s a very real danger,” says Rowe. “[Half] the appointees on the board have all been appointed by the Conservative government. The councillors on the board – other than Olivia Chow – are quite conservative.

“And then there is this thing with politicians, where they’re really afraid of the police.”

Rowe – an NDP provincial government appointee – calls that “the Bob Rae factor” – referring to a mass police protest back then on the front lawn of the legislature.

“Every politician takes note of that and it was certainly true when we were hiring last time,” says Rowe. “I think we made a bad error in judgment when we decided to hire the new chief right before an election.

“That tainted the hiring process we went through, because all of the councillors were looking at the hiring with an eye to the election and Fantino was the most popular candidate in terms of election chances.

“I don’t know whether promises had been made or anything – I can’t be that direct – but it was very clear that there was going to be a lot of flack if Fantino didn’t get hired.”

Rowe is also quick to acknowledge that during his interview, top-cop hopeful Fantino littered his dialogue with Christian imagery.

“Absolutely,” says Rowe. “All those things are true.”

With an adamant split on the police board, commissioners crowned internal candidate David Boothby as a compromise.