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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

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