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Toronto police board chair acknowledges ‘intense’ disagreements

Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee insists that the board is capable of carrying out its mandate effectively despite public disagreements among its members.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee says the organization has not lost its ability to function, despite recent controversy – including one of its own members taking legal action against the board.

Mr. Mukherjee spoke to reporters at a board meeting Thursday after months of controversy surrounding the organization.

"I need for people to respect each other's differences.

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"Fight, scheme, whatever they need to do – but in the end, focus on the work that they need to do," Mr. Mukherjee said.

"So far, they have been doing that."

Still, he acknowledged that there have been "intense" disagreements between members recently.

"Sometimes they take nasty forms, like [Clayton] Ruby bringing out this judicial review," he said – a reference to vice-chair Michael Thompson's lawyer and legal action against the board.

But, Mr. Mukherjee said, "this board is dealing with important issues both in public and private, with a great deal of effectiveness."

Earlier this week, Mr. Thompson revealed that he's brought legal action against the board for a closed-door vote in which it found him in "potential breach" of the code of conduct.

This was in reference to comments he made to media in opposition of extending Chief Bill Blair's contract.

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Mr. Mukherjee also addressed another controversy involving one of the board's members, Andy Pringle.

Mayor Rob Ford and his brother have been critical of a fishing trip that Mr. Pringle took with Chief Blair several years ago.

The Ford brothers argue that the trip constitutes a conflict of interest.

Mr. Pringle says there is no conflict of interest.

But Mr. Mukherjee said that Mr. Pringle's "heart was in the right place" when he invited Chief Blair to go fishing with him.

The trip, he said, happened amidst difficult negotiations over the budget.

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"It was in that context that Mr. Pringle thought that if he had a weekend with the chief," Mr. Mukherjee said, "he might be able to move [discussions] a bit further."

Mr. Pringle has since recused himself from all board discussions involving the Fords.

Mr. Mukherjee says this will not cause problems for the board.

"I need four votes to make a decision," he said of the seven-member board.

"I have six."

With a report from Adrian Morrow

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National Food Reporter

Ann Hui is the national food reporter at The Globe and Mail. Previously, she worked as a national reporter and homepage editor for theglobeandmail.com and an online editor in News. More

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