Toronto Police Board Denies Promotions to Police Disciplined in G20

Update: see previous posts – August 31, 2011 Superior Court Judge Allows One G20 Class-Action Lawsuit to Proceed, while Staying a Second One, August 13, 2011 Judge Declares that Toronto Police Criminalized Political Demonstrations, August 12, 2011 Toronto Deputy Police Chief Tony Warr Defends Actions of Police During G20, July 29, 2011 Judge Rules that Man Arrested at G20 Should Have Been Provided Counsel, July 23, 2011 Twenty One (21) Month Sentence for Man Who Set G20 Police Vehicle Ablaze, July 22, 2011 G20 Investigator Wants Law to Ban Disguises After 17 Suspects Unidentified, July 21, 2011 Toronto Police Chief Blair’s Report on the G20 is Deferred, June 25, 2011 G20 Summit Toronto – First Anniversary (June 26 & 27, 2011), June 18, 2011 Harper Falls Short on Toronto Businesses’ G20 Claims, June 10, 2011 G20 – Final Public Hearing for the Toronto Police’s Civilian Review, June 10, 2011 G20 – Another Arrest, June 7, 2011 G20 Update – Who Assaulted Adam? Nooobody!, June 1, 2011 Ottawa Police Enjoy Their Share of the G20 Money Pie, McGuinty to Scrap the Secret G20 Law (1939 Public Works Protection Act), March 31, 2011 The “G20 Bump” Translates into a 60% Increase of Toronto Police Making the 2010 Sunshine List, March 19, 2011 Harper Screws Toronto’s Businesses, March 18, 2011 New G20 Lawsuits Launched Against Toronto Police Board, December 7, 2010 Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”, August 8, 2010 G20 Litigation, August 1, 2010 Damage$ Flowing from Charter Breaches

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The Toronto police board has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to promote nine officers who were disciplined for removing their name tags during G20 demonstrations.

They removed their name tags so that they could not be identified. New police officers begin their careers as a fourth-class constable and typically spend a year at each level before moving up. Third-class constables earn $64,839 annually, Second-class $72,948, and first-class constables make $81,046 a year.

Chief Bill Blair recommended those promotions and the civilian oversight board’s refusal to agree suggests cracks in what has historically been a close relationship.

On Tuesday, the police association filed a grievance. If the arbitrator sides with the police board, it will make clear a currently gray area regarding the board’s powers to refuse promotions.

In the past, the board has passively pushed through reclassification recommendations from the chief, including for officers who have unbecoming conduct on their records.

That practice has been a sore spot for years among some on the board, who feel uneasy about giving more authority to officers they believe have shown questionable judgment and character.

Police spokesperson Mark Pugash said he would not comment on “hypothetical questions” such as: “Is it appropriate to promote a young officer who has already had disciplinary action taken against them?”

As for the grievance, Pugash said “We’re not a party to this. This is a grievance between the police association and the board. We have no role. It makes no sense for us to comment.”

Tensions on the police board first surfaced after Mayor Rob Ford appointed Councillor Michael Thompson as its vice-chair. Thompson and Blair have quietly clashed on a number of issues. Most recently, on Wednesday Thompson said he was “extremely disappointed” that Blair spoke out about potential layoffs.

Chair Alok Mukherjee maintains there is absolutely no problem with cohesiveness between members and Blair.

“It is always understood that the board has the right to accept or not accept the chief’s recommendation.”

During the June 2010 G20 summit, a total of 90 police officers were found to have removed their name tags during demonstrations. Those officers, including the nine at the centre of the promotion controversy, were given a one-day suspension without pay as punishment.

One argument being raised against the board’s decision is a rule that prevents officers from being punished twice for the same offence. Board critics say that because the officers already lost a day’s pay they can’t be denied a promotion because of their G20 offence.

Furthermore, Ontario’s police act does not permit the withholding of a reclassification as a disciplinary act. In some police circles, some have argued this is what the oversight board is doing.

Mukherjee counters that denying a promotion is not a punishment.

“It is our view that reclassification or promotion is a reward that the board bestows on an employee in its capacity as the employer,” he said. “In making such a decision, the board should be able to articulate clear and cogent reasons for its decision.”

And as long as clear reasons are given, the board is not necessarily bound to accept a recommendation from the chief.

Police association president Mike McCormack disagrees.

“Through the collective agreement and past practices, if the chief recommends you go up, you go up. The chief is making decisions based on evaluations and specific criteria,” said McCormack.

“The board is just taking a position that they want to be the ones to judge on reclassification based on. . . criteria we don’t know.”

McCormack would not confirm or deny whether any of the impacted constables were disciplined for the G20 summit, but he did say it is not the association’s understanding that the summit has anything to do with the board’s decision.

The involved officers are second- and third-class constables who are eligible to be made first- and second-class constables. New police officers begin their careers as a fourth-class constable and typically spend a year at each level before moving up.

The promotion would have meant a significant pay raise. Third-class constables earn $64,839 annually. Second-class $72,948. And first-class constables make $81,046 a year.

The union grievance was filed on behalf of 10 officers. One had been recently disciplined for something unrelated to the G20.

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