911 Calls from Toronto Mayor’s Residence: Private Information or Public Interest?
There have been a lot of 911 calls coming from Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s residence. An article by Robyn Doolittle in the Toronto Star is raising a series of questions about those calls. How many were there really? What is happening at the Ford residence? Does the public deserve to know? Is Ford abusing his power to avoid having charges laid against him?
According to the Toronto Star, police officers make regular visits to the Ford home. While the exact number and nature of the calls is not known, some of the incidents include:
- October 24, 2011: Mayor Ford called 911 when a crew from the CBC’s satirical news This Hour Has 22 Minutes show arrived unexpectedly at his home to interview him. While Ford claims he was “ambushed”, this was not exactly what you would call a life threatening emergency.
- October 25, 2011: Police called to the Ford residence on a domestic call.
- December 24, 2011: Ford’s mother-in-law called at around 4am to say that Ford had been drinking and was planning to take the children to Florida against his wife Renata’s wishes.
- March 2008, Ford called 911 claiming that Renata was acting irrational. Police later charged Ford with assault and uttering death threats. The charges were later dropped.
Between 2008 and 2011, the 911 calls have continued and the Toronto Star learned about a number of incidents through different sources. However, their freedom of information requests relating to 911 calls to houses on Ford’s street resulted in incomplete information with details removed.
These calls raise a number of concerns. One of them is conflict of interest. The Toronto Star quoted Councillor Adam Vaughn, a former police board member:
Whatís changed since the last time events made the headlines is that he has a designate on the police service board and he is involved directly with negotiations around the budget . . . the mayor canít handle this the same way he handled it before. He has a higher burden of responsibility here. If heís involved with the police, either with calling them or having them called against him. . . heís got to be much more clear how heís exercising this authority and whether or not there is any potential conflict.
If Ford is abusing his power as mayor to exert control over the police force and make charges go away, that would certainly be cause for concern. This isn’t the first time that Ford has been accused of flouting the law. In July 2011, a mother and daughter noticed Ford talking on his cell phone while driving. When they gave him a “thumbs down” to express their disapproval, the eye witness Ottilie Mason says that Ford responded by ‘flipping the bird’. While Ford denies giving them the finger, he did admit to talking on his phone while driving, an act that has been against the law in Ontario since 2009. Despite another reported incident of Ford talking on the phone while driving a few days later, he was never charged or ticketed for either incident.
Personally, I don’t think the public or the media have any place in the bedrooms of politicians. I hate when stories about affairs fill the front pages of newspapers. Adultery, while not stellar behavior, isn’t against the law and is simply a personal issue.† However, in the case of the 911 calls coming from the Ford residence, the public does have the right to be concerned and to ask questions.
- Has Toronto mayor been breaking the law by abusing his wife and abusing his position of power to make charges go away?
- Is the Ford family wasting city resources by calling 911 to resolve simple disagreements in the home at a time when Ford is slashing budgets for essential services?
One way or another, it seems like Ford’s use of the 911 service needs more scrutiny, not less.
Photo credit: West Annex News on flickr