Depending on which side you fall on, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair either let Mayor Rob Ford off the hook by botching a drug investigation or took such personal delight in chasing the mayor that he deserves to be fired.
There’s also the possibility that Blair, who Ford himself has previously held up as an ethical figurehead, led a sound investigation into a drug ring with apparent ties to Ford and let the chips fall where they may. But professional competency doesn’t make headlines.
Fresh off a groundbreaking Thursday press conference in which Blair announced that police had recovered a deleted copy of a Rob Ford video that had previously been reported by the press, questions abound about what Ford is recorded doing on the video, and why no charges have been laid.
Dennis Morris, Ford's lawyer, told the Toronto Sun that Blair was grandstanding when he announced the existence of the controversial video and suggested he should be fired.
“The mayor has been convicted in the public by the police chief,” Morris told the newspaper, adding that Blair should release the video to the public. Morris further said there is no way to prove what Ford is doing in the video and suggested he was smoking tobacco or marijuana.
"No one is going to approach the media with a video saying he's smoking tobacco or marijuana — it's not salacious enough," Morris told CBC News. "It's not going to sell newspapers, it's not going to make headlines all over the world."
Coun. Doug Ford called in to AM640 to defend his brother and also called for Blair to release the video. “Obviously, he says on one hand he can't comment on evidence, and then on the other hand, he wants to comment on it. So if that's not a little bit of politicking on the chief's part, I don't know what is,” said Doug Ford, per the Star.
Full coverage: Rob Ford
Of course, neither Ford considered it politicking when Blair took the unusual step of reviewing a 911 dispatch tape last year, in which Rob Ford was alleged to have called dispatchers "bitches." They weren't offended when Blair publicly stated that he sided with Ford's version of events. They also likely didn't mind when Blair elected to leave Ford's name out of the investigation until Thursday, after a court unsealed police documents that mentioned Ford many, many times.
On the other side of the spectrum, a renowned lawyer who has previously clashed with Ford believes Blair "botched" the investigation. The Canadian Press reports Clayton Ruby has accused the police of giving a deliberate pass to Ford on his alleged drug use and ties to the underworld.
"The police have either ignored or overlooked all the evidence against Ford," Ruby told the news agency. "I've never seen such a botched investigation, and I've seen thousands."
The Superior Court released hundreds of pages of documents from the investigation on Thursday that chronicled meetings between Ford and his friend Alexander Lisi, charged with drug trafficking and extortion, often held in bizarre places or under odd circumstances, and during which police often spotted packages being exchanged.
Based on the police documents, Ruby argued that officers who witnessed suspicious "hand-to-hand" transactions would have been in their legal right to stop Ford's car and search him.
Ruby represented a private citizen in an ultimately unsuccessful legal bid to have Ford removed from office last year. A police spokesman told the Canadian Press that Ruby's fresh complaint was a publicity tactic.
During Blair's public statement, he confirmed Ford was in a video that had been recovered by police, and that the video was "consistent" with what had been reported in the press. The Toronto Star and Gawker had reported that the video showed Ford smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe.
There is a possibility that Blair has handled the case as effectively as possible, that he neither delighted in nor avoided holding Ford’s feet to the fire. That he is correct in handing the video over to Crown lawyers and letting them handle the ball from here.
Sadly, that possibility isn’t likely to engage the armchair quarterbacks.
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