Back of the Book
The OPP commissioner kerfuffle: Brad Blair doesn’t deserve criticism
By R.J. (Bob) Fitches
I closely followed the unfortunate situation regarding the potential replacement of the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) by Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner, who has been noted in the media as a “longtime ally” of Ontario Premier Doug Ford. I have read various responses to the situation, including the letter that was written by the acting commissioner, Brad Blair, and the response by others to that letter.
By R.J. (Bob) Fitches
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a retired OPP superintendent, having left that proud organization almost 20 years ago. During my time with the OPP, there were various situations that arose which caused some discomfort to the organization; but none as unfortunate as this, in my opinion.
Also, while instructing at the OPP Academy in the 1980s, I had the good fortune of having a bright young recruit by the name of Brad Blair in one of my classes. So, although I cannot lay claim to being a close friend of the acting commissioner’s, I can lay claim to having known him in various roles throughout his very successful career.
One comment I heard attributed to Ford was that Brad Blair’s letter was simply “sour grapes.” Based on my knowledge of the OPP and also based upon my knowledge of Brad Blair (and what I see are his values and ethics), his letter was about the OPP – it was not about Brad himself.
Someone who is not of the policing world would likely not understand the importance that a police organization holds to most of those who have dedicated their working lives to it. As one who was and is extremely proud of the organization, I can state without any hesitation whatsoever that when a situation threatens to tarnish the organization’s reputation, I would do whatever I could do to minimize the damage caused by such a situation.
Although I have not discussed such motives with Brad or anyone else within the organization, I am completely satisfied that Brad’s motivation for writing to request an investigation of these matters was borne from his concern for the organization; not from any sort of “sour grapes.” The premier’s off-the-cuff remarks were not helpful and, in my opinion, illustrate a lack of understanding of the organizational culture of police agencies in general — and the OPP in particular.
Whether or not there was a political “thumb on the scale” when the selection for commissioner was made, it is clear that there is a fog of concern laying over the process. That ought to be sufficient for the premier to welcome an investigation to clear the air. One would have thought that as the political leader, he would have called for it himself. It is unfortunate that someone other than the acting commissioner hadn’t asked for an investigation, but since it appears that nobody else was moved to do so, it fell on his shoulders and he ought to be commended – not criticized.
In fairness to the thousands of men and women within the OPP, in fairness to many more thousands of men and women in police organizations across Ontario and in fairness to Ron Taverner, this matter needs to be investigated and the air cleared of any and all suspicions of political interference. If and when politics is seen to have permeated policing in any way whatsoever, the independence of law enforcement and the unblemished rule of law becomes severely tainted.
This is not about Doug Ford. This is not about Brad Blair. This is not about Ron Taverner.
This is about an organization that is over 100 years-old that deserves to have its reputation protected and upheld by the government of a province that it has so proudly and impartially served for generations.
R.J. (Bob) Fitches is a retired OPP superintendent.