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More investigation needed on Blair’s Rob Ford remark, board chair says

Toronto police chief Bill Blair is shown in his office on Dec. 27, 2013.


Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair may have engaged in misconduct by implying wrongdoing on the part of Mayor Rob Ford, according to the chairman of the city's police services board, which examined a complaint about how the city's top cop commented on the alleged crack video.

However, board chairman Alok Mukherjee said the complaint from the mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, met a "low threshold" and a full investigation is needed from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a provincial agency that investigates allegations of police wrongdoing.

"The only way that determination can be made is through an investigation," Mr. Mukherjee said in an interview Tuesday, later adding: "The board had had no concern about it until the complaint was brought to the board."

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In an escalation in the standoff between the Fords and Chief Blair, Councillor Ford alleged that Chief Blair was biased against his brother for revealing on Oct. 31 that officers had recovered a video that appeared to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine, and by pronouncing himself "disappointed."

Doug Ford argued that the chief's comments "constituted misinformation and making judgment which could imply wrongdoing on the part of the mayor and may have the effect of denying the mayor the opportunity for a fair and impartial trial if he was charged" in a complaint late last year to the OIPRD, according to Mr. Mukherjee.

The OIPRD asked the Toronto Police Services Board to review Doug Ford's allegations, as required under the Police Services Act. At a board meeting on Feb. 13, the board concluded that the Chief's comments may have constituted misconduct and referred the complaint back to the OIPRD for investigation.

"The board's view was the only way that this allegation can be resolved is through OIPRD dealing with it," Mr. Mukherjee said. "And as far as the board was concerned, they met the low threshold set by the OIPRD."

Doug Ford also previously complained that Chief Blair was in a conflict for going on a fishing trip with police board member Andy Pringle. However, Mr. Mukherjee said while Councillor Ford had referenced the trip, it was not part of his complaint.

Mr. Mukherjee said he advised Chief Blair of the board's decision. "Obviously, he wishes this had not happened," he said, referring to the finding.

Police spokesman Mark Pugash declined comment, saying Chief Blair also won't be addressing questions related to the investigation.

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OIPRD spokeswoman Rosemary Parker wouldn't confirm the investigation into Chief Blair, citing privacy regulations. However, the Toronto Sun obtained a Feb. 21 OIPRD letter to Doug Ford saying it is investigating. The letter includes an OIPRD file number that, when searched on the organization's website, confirms it is under investigation.

OIPRD investigations must be completed within six months.

Complaints that are ultimately substantiated can result in penalties including reprimand, counselling, docked pay, suspension. demotion or dismissal.

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