Update: see previous posts – December 16, 2010 Take the Law into Your Own Hands, December 7, 2010 Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”, October 24, 2010 Parking Prices in Toronto Ranked One of the Highest in Canada, September 21, 2010 Canada Revenue Agency review Toronto Police’ “Paid Duty” and “Free Parking”
Small acts often reveal big truths.
In the case of the Toronto Police, something as seemingly insignificant as the public square in front of 52 Division speaks volumes about a force that believes itself more important than the city it exists to protect.
These days, of course, most eyes are focused on the role the police played at the G20 meeting last summer. Though only one officer has been charged with brutality — and that came after continued public outrage — the overwhelming sense is that the force behaved disgracefully.
Even Chief Bill Blair, who likes to think himself smarter than the average baton twirler, discredited himself by lashing out on CBC radio against his critics and certain amateur videographers. He had to apologize for that outburst, but not before demonstrating his hostility and making it clear he assumes police come first.
No one would equate the front of cop shop with the G20 policing fiasco. No heads were cracked, no innocent bystanders beaten and dragged off to jail, no name badges removed, but in its own way this is yet another tale of police heavy-handedness.
Situated on the south side of Dundas St. W. at McCaul St., 52 Division is set well back from the sidewalk. The space in front of the station is nominally a public square. That doesn’t mean police have ever tried to make the public feel welcome; indeed, they have gone out of their way to ensure no one’s sure it’s part of the public realm.
If anybody cared, the square would be planted with grass and trees and filled with benches. Instead, since last summer, it has been fenced off. It’s now off-limits to anyone not employed by the force. This has upset neighbours who have complained the Star’s Fixer, Jack Lakey.
In a column this week, Lakey quotes Supt. Hugh Ferguson, who runs 52 Division. He explains that the square is closed because repairs are being made to the underground garage. When it’s done, Ferguson said, we’ll stop parking in the square.
The only problem is that it’s not true. For years the police have used this square as their own parking lot when it suits them. There are photographs to prove it.
No one would disagree that police need to be able to park in places that would otherwise be illegal, but this is no emergency; the real issue is the personal convenience of those employed at 52 Division.
However understandable — wouldn’t we all love to park wherever we felt like it — it is irritating, illegal, and worse, indicative of an institution grown complacent and so self-satisfied it is losing touch not only with those it is meant to serve, but those who pay its way.
The fact Ferguson thought he could get away with such a limp response sums up the casual arrogance of a force that feels little pressure to speak the truth. If he’s any indication, the police clearly care less about Torontonians.
There’s not a whole lot of customer service on display at 52 Division, or respect for taxpayers, let alone the neighbours. To add insult to injury, the force clearly doesn’t have a clue that it has no right to commandeer public space. And to do so without so much as a word of explanation, or apology, says something about a growing sense of entitlement.
No wonder public confidence in the Toronto police is down,
If, as the police motto states, the force’s mandate is “To serve and protect,” the question is who: Us or them?