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Toronto Police on Don Bosco Bus: “At no time was the mayor involved in any of the decision-making.”

Police and TTC address concerns about a bus pulled from regular service to pick up the mayor's football team.

Finch bus photo by {a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashtonpal/4577922071/}AshtonPal{/a} from the {a href=http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/}Torontoit Flickr Pool{/a}.

The Toronto Police Service and the TTC both provided updates on the latest mayoral controversy this afternoon, in the hopes of clearing up lingering questions as to why two buses were pulled off their routes and sent to pick up the Don Bosco Eagles, the football team coached by Rob Ford.

Superintendent Ron Taverner outlined the chain of events that led up to that decision at a press conference. As he described it, there were existing tensions between Don Bosco and the opposing team from Henry Carr. Those tensions flared up in a verbal exchange at last week’s game, but “no physical confrontation took place.” (One Henry Carr player told the Star that the only person whose temper “slipped” was actually their coach, but that players were calm.)

A total of five officers were on scene at the time: two School Resource Officers (one from each school), plus two neighbourhood safety officers and their sergeant. After speaking with the administration of both schools, “out of caution for something happening and community safety” the sergeant on scene decided to call the TTC to request a shelter bus. “At no time was the mayor involved in any of the decision-making with regard to a bus being called. It was our officer, our sergeant, who made that decision,” Taverner said. As the bus pulled away with the Don Bosco players “the field was calm,” he went on, “and we feel that a situation was diffused.”

When the story first broke, one police spokesperson cited the cold, rainy weather as the explanation for why a bus was called. (The game was called early, which meant the football team would have had to wait about 45 minutes for their scheduled bus to arrive.) Today, Taverner said that wasn’t the primary consideration, however: the weather “plays a very small piece of what we’re talking about here.”

As for the mayor’s involvement in the matter, Taverner conceded that his position as a volunteer coach with Don Bosco creates interest in the situation (“I don’t think we’d all be here right now if it wasn’t the mayor’s team.”), but repeated several times that he had spoken to the officer who took the call, and that Ford played no role in getting the bus on scene.

Meanwhile, TTC CEO Andy Byford has conducted a review of the commission’s shelter bus policy, and its application to the incident last week. That policy allows police, fire, or emergency services to call the TTC and ask for a bus to be sent to particular locations in emergency situations. With regards to the Don Bosco game, Byford writes that the reason a full Finch 36 bus was told to offload its passengers and go to the football field was because it was the nearest one available. (None were in the garage or at the ends of their routes, which are the TTC’s first choices in fulfilling shelter bus requests.)

Byford then addressed the voicemail message Rob Ford left him, asking why the bus hadn’t arrived yet:

The buses, we now know, was having difficulty finding the school. At the time of the call to me from the mayor, I was unaware of the police request. Upon hearing the voicemail, I called the Transit Control Centre to inquire about whether they had received a request for a bus. Staff confirmed a shelter bus was requested and advised that it would arrive within five minutes. At no time was the mayor’s name invoked.

After reviewing the shelter bus policy, Byford has concluded that “The TTC does not have the expertise to determine what constitutes an emergency and, therefore, the need for a shelter bus. The TTC must rely on our emergency services to make these decisions on behalf of the public. To change, alter or add a layer of oversight to shelter bus requests could, unwittingly, cause harm to those most in need of a shelter bus.”

The full text of Byford’s report—

TTC Shelter Bus Policy Review

Comments

  • Nick

    Something’s not quite right in spite of everyone’s story here – Ford hasn’t explained why he phone Byford on behalf of the police. The optics of this still aren’t good.

    • Testu

      More to the point, Ron Taverner outright said that this was handled differently because it was the Mayor’s team. Why does our Mayor have a football team? It’s clear that anything he does outside his civic duties will end up like this, simply because he is the mayor.

      • ashap

        No, Ron Taverner said that the presence of the Mayor is the reason we are even discussing this issue in the first place. The fact is that there is a TTC shelter bus policy and it has been used in similar situations in the past with no media attention. The difference is that the Ford haters gotta hate and this is the issue of the week. Oh, did you see that Ford’s attendance record at council votes is actually better than many of the left leaning council who rail against him coaching? maybe some of these councillors should coach a team as well. It may improve their attendance record!

        • Anonymous

          Nobody anywhere cares that there’s a TTC shelter bus policy. Yes, Ford’s involvement – and he was involved, not merely present – is what put this in the spotlight. By getting involved and personally calling Byford, Ford changed it from a standard police request to The Mayor Wants A Bus Bus Bus, and all of his influence as mayor came with the request.

          Oh, did you notice Ron Taverner vocally supports Ford’s casino plans?

  • The Nexus

    The problem isn’t if or how the Mayor played a role in getting the bus on the scene; it’s the fact that he got involved AT ALL – I think people somehow think that if it’s a phone call from The Mayor of the largest city in Canada that people can just “negate” its effect (intended or unintended). Had he not made a phone call to Andy Byford in the first place I don’t think people would be looking to Ford (as usual) for some sort of response.

  • (Night)Mayor

    Release a recording of the voicemail. That would clear everything up, but it will never happen as long as Rob “Accountability and Transparency” Ford is mayor.

  • Testu

    I like that every one involved is tripping over themselves to make it clear that the Mayor was not involved in summoning the bus. It’s easy to forget that none of this would have even made the papers if the Mayor had been at the council meeting instead of coaching a high school football game.

  • CaligulaJones

    “A total of five officers were on scene at the time: two School Resource
    Officers (one from each school), plus two neighbourhood safety officers
    and their sergeant.”

    I wish I could print this out and stuff it into Adam Vaughan’s mouth (this morning, he was moaning on about using five cops for this instead of “real” copping. Something tells me that none of these guys are out busting perps).

    • tommy

      After the incident at Northern a couple years back, and the proven effectiveness of hall monitors over resource officers, I would argue that at least 2 of the officers didn’t need to be there.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TWAHZB3T4MUA4ZJWPYZ5H3SSG4 NPP

      Absolutely. It’s all Adam Vaughan’s fault. Using police to monitor the social network sites for high school football teams and sending 5 officers to a single high school football game are an incredible good value for taxpayers. If this kind of customer service means that taxpayers need to pay another $100 or 200 million a year, it’s a small price to pay. The Mayors have already found those savings elsewhere.

      • Anonymous

        The question we should be asking is: why hasn’t the ttc built subways to these football fields already? C’mon people! It’s for the kids!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TWAHZB3T4MUA4ZJWPYZ5H3SSG4 NPP

    Typical case of chicken little. The mayor has lied so many times, that even when he tells the truth, no one believes him any more. He has used up his goodwill and should follow Montreal Mayor Tremblay’s example and resign immediately.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590175336 Gregory Hughes

    what a farce, 5 cops were on site and they still determined that it was an “Emergency” and those kids needed to be picked up right away, and then the mayor phones the CEO of transit to find out why the bus is late. what bullshit! Can’t 5 cops control a few high school students, can’t the coaches control the kids. This is total BS!!! Ford is a putz abusing his power. WTF were 5 cops there in the first place, maybe this team should be disbanded and Ford should go back to work, the fat fuck. who gives a crap if “he wants to help some kids out, play ball” fuck playing ball.

    • ashap

      yep, typical of Ford haters. when faced with the facts that exonerate him you chose to ignore them.

      • Anonymous

        Exonerate? How many more times do you need to be told he personally called Byford about the bus?

  • Kevin Reidy

    The issue probably should be: “Why was a bus needed at all”
    There was already a police presence on site. If they were worried about something happening then the Don Bosco team could have waited in their dressing room until their regularly schedueld bus arrived?

  • Anonymous

    Was there any press at this press conference? One would hope they would have been able to ask some questions like the following:

    Can you clarify the mayor’s role in calling the TTC Chief? When was the mayor told that a shelter bus had been requested? Was he given a time estimate? Did the police ask him to place the call?

    Catholic school board spokesperson John Yan has said repeatedly stated that the weather was the only reason the bus was requested. What steps did the police take to keep the school and/or school board informed about what was happening?

    Had the opposing team already left the field by the time the bus arrived, as claimed by a member of that team?

    How frequently are shelter buses called to high school sports games? When was the last time this happened, and what were the circumstances in that case?

  • CountZero

    This situation is ridiculous, regardless of whether the mayor was involved or not. Some kids get into a “verbal exchange” and a coach gets confrontational, and we need emergency buses dispatched? Despite the presence of FIVE police officers??

    If the mayor really wasn’t involved, then I seriously question the judgment of that sergeant, as well as his ability, and the ability of his officers, to control a couple highschool football teams.

    The schools can hire school buses to shuttle the kids around, or else the parents and families can arrange rides and pickups. Otherwise the kids can stand in the rain and the cold at the bus stop like the rest of us.

  • PaulD

    Everyone is bending over backwards to keep the Mayor out of this nonsense. Unfortunately for the Mayor, it has his fingerprints all over this mess. It’s time he became a full time coach and leave the city out of football.

  • Jake

    What a waste of time. I lived in Toronto for 4 years and now because of a career change I have been living elsewhere for 1 month… and this all just sounds incredibly foolish. Why do people care so much about his crap? It has zero effect on anything… I dislike Ford as much as all of you but you people waste a ton of your own time crying foul about every little thing.

    • Anonymous

      I for one am enjoying seeing him slapped around like he is. He deserves every slap.
      I despise his brand of politics, takes my taxes then tells me to shut the f* up, you have no voice and do not expect to be recognized. Then takes my taxes and gave them to somebody else.

  • Anonymous

    All of that to avoid a 45 minute wait.

  • David

    How often in the past have TTC buses been sent to a football match? Is it from time to time or is this the first and only time? That answer should have some bearing on how we think about this instance.

  • Anonymous

    It’s about time we heard from the TCDSB with a similar degree of candour to that displayed by Byford.

    • Anonymous

      It seems the TCDSB is well up Rob’s ass.