2 min

Fantino failed

Why we need a new police chief

Credit: Xtra files

Julian Fantino once displayed sensible leadership. When a court decision effectively decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, Toronto’s police chief announced that his officers would stop laying charges.

Some might criticize this step as activist policing, but it’s the kind of common sense revolution Ontario needs. If politicians don’t have the balls to abolish victimless crimes, I’m all for a police chief who hears the courts.

Fantino didn’t listen when it came to the city’s gay community, however. During his tenure, silly sex and nudity charges against queers proceeded apace, despite being routinely junked by the courts.

When the Pussy Palace charges were thrown out, the judge chided the police. The court decision said the raid was a “flagrant breach of charter rights” which “went against common decency” and put “the administration of justice into disrepute.”

This was Fantino’s cue to rework that pot announcement and declare that his officers would stop laying charges related to sex between consenting adults. It was also his cue to apologize. But he did neither. He failed.

Fantino didn’t even bother responding to a human rights complaint filed after the raid. That’s just rude.

Charges resulting from police raids on nudist events at the Barn were thrown out, as were charges laid against nudists at Pride. Again and again, Fantino missed his cue to state that nudists would not be charged. Again and again, he failed.

When pressed about targeting queers on sexual charges, police say they’re just following the law. “If you don’t like [the law], you can go to your local MP and ask that they remove it from the Criminal Code,” said then-52 Division head honcho Aiden Maher about Pride nudity charges in 2002.

But during Fantino’s reign, Toronto police have been preferring disorderly conduct charges under the Ontario Liquor Licence Act – not the Criminal Code.

Asked why, Maher told a community meeting after a Barn raid in 2000, that police used liquor act charges because the criminal courts would no longer agree with police indecency charges.

(The courts don’t agree with the liquor charges, either: the Pussy Palace and the Barn nudity charges – provincial liquor charges in all instances – were also thrown out.)

And so it appears that the police exploit the Criminal Code and the liquor act in an effort to crack down on Toronto’s gay community, despite failing in court. That’s sick, and any decent police chief would’ve put a stop to it.

Fantino’s contract won’t be renewed, but a campaign to reinstate him is underway. It’s true the chief has not been the gay community’s worst nightmare, as many feared based on his record as police chief in London, Ontario. There, he secured more than $1.5-million to investigate a child porn ring which was never found.

London’s child porn ring was Fantino’s weapons-of-mass-destruction illusion, exposing him as a master manipulator who, like the US president, could successfully conjure phantoms to forward an agenda.

Fantino’s overtures to Toronto’s gay community have been largely ceremonial, in keeping with his image- conscious style. He hosts an annual invitation-only pre-Pride event. He wrote a letter in support of a gay radio station.

But he has failed to lead the service to police Toronto in a manner befitting a cosmopolitan city. In his failure, Fantino has done a disservice to Toronto’s queer communities (among others), to its taxpayers and to its celebrated character of diversity.

This past Pride, business owners allege that police were excessive and unnecessarily unfriendly in their visits to bars in the gay village. Safety is one thing, they say, but this feels like harassment. Meanwhile during Pride, a 17-year-old girl leaving a gay bar was abducted from Mutual St, violently raped and left in a dumpster.

If the police stopped treating homos in bars like criminals, they might find the resources to deal with the real crime under their noses.

The police, under Fantino’s leadership, have their priorities wrong. Time for a new chief.

* David Walberg is Xtra’s publisher.

*See the next item for more on policing consensual sex.