UPDATE: Brad Blair's Lawyer Alleges Abuse of Power, Taverner Withdraws His Name

The lawyer for a former high-ranking provincial police officer believes the Ontario government is abusing its power.

In a confernece call on Wednesday, Julian Falconer says the province could have demoted Brad Blair from his role of deputy commissioner at the Ontario Provincial Police instead of firing him outright.

Blair alleges he was targeted by the government for waging a legal battle over the hiring of a long-time friend of Premier Doug Ford as head of the force.

Falconer says a discipline process must be initiated under the Police Services Act in order to fire a police officer.

He says that didn't take place in Blair's case and says his client isn't being given an opportunity to defend himself.

"Imagine firing somebody without them even having an opportunity to respond to the allegations, and imagine firing them after that person's lawyer wrote repeatedly, asking for explanation. This stinks to high heaven."

Falconer doesn't believe the right process wasn't followed.

"The only way you can remove the status of a police officer as a sworn police officer is to abide by the police services act procedures. What it proves, is this is what it looks like as you make it up as you go."

The government did not immediately respond to Falconer's claims and has said Blair was fired by a group of managers in the civil service who allege he broke an oath of confidentiality when he made internal OPP documents public.

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Ron Taverner (Photo courtesy of CTV News)

Meanwhile, late Wednesday, Ron Taverner announced he has withdrawn his name from consideration to be the next commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, citing the need to protect the integrity of front-line officers.

The 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent says in a statement he will not take on the role given the controversy surrounding his appointment late last year.

Taverner is a family friend of Premier Doug Ford and his appointment set off accusations of political interference in the hiring process for the province's top policing job.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Ford thanked Taverner for putting his name forward and says he would have been a "tremendous asset" to the OPP and the people of Ontario.

The government says Interim Commissioner Gary Couture will remain in the position.

Statement from Ron Taverner to Minister Sylvia Jones:

Dear Minister:

Please accept this letter as my request to withdraw my name from consideration for the position of Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).

This decision is not an easy one for me to make. I believe the OPP requires new leadership and a change in culture at its most senior levels. The thousands of men and women who make up the front lines of the OPP deserve leadership that will put their concerns and well-being at the forefront of decision-making. It is only then that the OPP will truly serve and protect the public to the best of its ability. It is for these very reasons that I have come to this decision - to protect the integrity of rank and file police officers given the controversy surrounding my appointment.

I am grateful to have had the confidence of the Government and believe that my 51-years in law enforcement would have provided me with the experience and leadership skills to do the job of Commissioner in a way that would have served the interest of the public and front-line police officers in the best way possible.

Respectfully,

Ron Taverner

 

Statement from the Office of the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones:  

“Today, Minister Jones received and accepted a letter from Superintendent Ron Taverner, that outlined his request to withdraw from consideration for the position of Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. We thank him for his continued service as a decorated police officer. 

“Interim Commissioner Gary Couture remains in his post. We will have more to say about the role of the Commissioner in the near future.”

 

Statement from Premier Doug Ford:

“I have the highest degree of respect for the front-line officers of the OPP and all police officers across this province - they put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities and keep us safe. 

“Since the beginning of this process, our objective has been to bring new leadership in order to address many long-standing and systemic issues that have existed for some time within the OPP; I am concerned about the countless negative stories I have heard directly from front-line officers. As far as our rank and file officers are concerned we must do better. 

“We need a new vision for the OPP; one that puts the interests of our front-line officers and the safety of the people of Ontario as its primary focus, above all else. Bringing about this kind of change at the OPP will require new leadership and it will not be easy, but it is necessary.

“On behalf of the Government, I want to thank Ron Taverner for putting his name forward. His fifty years of policing experience and support for the front-lines would have been a tremendous asset to the OPP and to the people of Ontario. It is very unfortunate that the opposition has chosen to politicize this process rather than focusing on how we can support our front-line officers. 

“I want every police officer in Ontario to know that I will always stand behind them.”

 

— With files from The Canadian Press