The latest details from a drug investigation linked to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford include more allegations of drug use, claims that Ford attempted to purchase the notorious crack video and a deepening understanding of the relationships that tied the Mayor’s Office to a violent street gang known as the Dixon City Bloods.
The final details from a police document released to the public by the courts further bind Ford and his friend, alleged drug trafficker Alexander Lisi, to a variety of sordid characters, and apparent illegalities.
Lisi has been charged with trafficking marijuana and extortion, but Ford has not been charged with anything. None of the allegations made in the document, containing information from police investigations and gleaned from wiretaps, have been proven in court.
The Ford brothers originally tried to paint the whole affair as an obsessed police chief determined to take the mayor down.
But nowadays the questions have turned to exactly why police haven't moved against Ford. Why have police executed massive investigations into the Dixon City Bloods, charged Lisi and yet have done nothing to address the final piece of the equation?
As Andrew Mitrovica wrote for iPolitics.ca on Thursday, the troubled optics began during police surveillance, when officers observed the mayor apparently receiving packages of drugs from Alexander Lisi and did not step in.
Imagine if a black “kid” was under police surveillance and, while being watched, was routinely handed curious packages by a suspected drug-trafficker. Is it conceivable that the police would just continue to watch and not act?
But that is precisely what Toronto police did when it came to the mayor of the largest city in Canada. They certainly did a lot of watching. But not once did police — despite ample grounds — stop, search, or arrest Ford.
Further troubling are allegations made about the mayor that were captured during police wiretaps on suspected gang members, related to his drug use, offers to purchase the video and claims Ford threatened to bring the heat down on the gang’s turf.
Ian MacKinnon, the media lawyer who fought for the public release of police documents, spoke to CBC's Matt Galloway on Thursday and said the information obtained in wiretaps may not meet the threshold for police charges.
"This is all people talking about the mayor, and in some cases Mr. Lisi as well. There is no conversation with the mayor. There is no conversation with Mr. Lisi," MacKinnon said. "Those phones weren't tapped. These are other people, so we are getting second, third-hand discussions about this."
MacKinnon added that police essentially stumbled onto the Ford connection during a larger drug investigation, and that moving to address those allegations could have threatened to scuttle the entire project.
"It is easy in retrospect to say, 'Why didn't they do something?' But at the time the police need to properly gather information, evidence and build a case."
Still, the optics remains troubling. The concern is summarized well by one poignant line from Esquire's Stephen Marche, who writes that the Ford fiasco has finally lost its humour.
"Of the four men in the most famous image of Ford hanging out in the drug house, one is dead, two are out on bail and the other remains the Mayor of Toronto," Marche writes.
"The time has come to ask: What are the differences between these men? One thing the transcripts make very clear is that Ford was, by far, the least intelligent person in the room at the crack house. He was also one of the least honest and most easily frightened. He was also white and rich."
[ More Brew: Mayor Rob Ford calls latest allegations an ‘outright lie’ ]
Chief Bill Blair maintains that detectives conducted their investigation and turned their findings over to the Crown. It is up to the courts to make the next move.
“All of the evidence that was gathered in that case has been reviewed by investigators and with Crown prosecutors in this case, and where reasonable probable ground to lay a charge exists, charges have been laid,” Blair said on Wednesday.
But semantics are not very reassuring for those who question whether Ford’s status and wealth make him somehow untouchable. Coun. Adam Vaughan, for one, says it appears there is a two-tiered justice system.
"It’s wrong to leave an impression in the minds of Torontonians that there are two sets of rules," he told the National Post on Wednesday. "Two-tiered policing is not acceptable. A kid like Rob Ford, with a trust fund, gets policed differently? Because if that is the case, that’s wrong."
Setting aside the question of criminality for a moment, the freshly released details outline the troubles with having a mayor who may be connected to gang members and drug dealers. The new details document an apparent and nearly successful attempt to blackmail the mayor over a video of him smoking crack cocaine.
They also document extortion attempts by the mayor's right hand man to secure a lost cell phone, which included threats of using the police force as a personal revenge-focused militia.
More details gleaned from wiretaps suggest the drug dealers were not threatened and not swayed by the mayor's authority. They even had plans to dangle more evidence of drug use over his head.
But that is all they are, a collection of comments and insinuations made by alleged drug dealers and overheard by a police investigation. Not that it means there is no truth behind the claims, only that there would need to be more proof to lay charges.
Is there an investigation ongoing into Ford, and could there be charges in the future? That is a very different question. It is concerning that Ford sees the absence of charges as a mandate to ignore and dismiss the concerns his actions have created. But that doesn’t mean police should cuff him for the sake of optics.
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