NEWS

Police board chief says he is the victim of union 'smear campaign'

12/08/2014 08:13 EST | Updated 02/07/2015 05:59 EST
The chair of the city's police oversight board says the union representing Toronto police officers has launched a smear campaign against him in the lead up to contract negotiations next year.

Alok Mukherjee, who heads the police services board, said Monday that calls for his resignation from the police union are part of a "classic pattern of overreaction" and that the "persistent campaign is intended to prevent me from doing my job."

On Friday, Mukherjee came under fire from union officials after he shared a Facebook post from the group Occupy Wall Street. The post was a composite image that pointed out that police are responsible for more deaths each year in the U.S. than the Ebola virus or ISIS. Below the image was a caption, written by the Occupy group, that read: "Just a reminder of who the enemy is in this world."

The post was intended as a rallying cry during ongoing protests against police violence in the U.S. following the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and a New York grand jury's decision not to indict an officer involved in the choke hold death of Eric Garner. 

'A smear campaign'

Mukherjee has since deleted the post, and on Friday he issued a statement clarifying that he did not intend to offend police officers in Toronto. 

"This was not intended to be a reflection in any way on Toronto and our police officers and the work they do," Mukherjee told CBC's Metro Morning in an interview. 

But police association president Mike McCormack immediately issued a statement to members calling for Mukherjee's resignation, saying the post "crossed the line."

Mukherjee said the union is using the post to discredit him ahead of contract negotiations next year.

"The association president has continued to raise this issue even after my clarification Friday ... To persist in making those kinds of allegations can only be seen as a smear campaign and it takes attention away from the serious issues we need to be talking about," he said. 

'Take ownership,' union says

He defended the post, which appeared on his personal Facebook account, as an effort to use controversial material to spark discussion. But McCormack said today that Mukherjee needs to "take ownership" of the commentary, which he says "lifted the veil" and displayed the chair's true position on policing in the city.

"Everybody knows as an educator you provide context, you provide background for a debate and discussion. This was not done on an appropriate forum," he said. "As the chair of the police services board there is a credibility and a certain amount of weight that comes with those statements."

"What are you implying? You're implying that police officers are the real enemy. You've got this posted with no context."

McCormack vehemently denied that Mukherjee is the victim of a smear campaign on behalf of the union, but said he's not confident the police association can move forward in negotiations with the police board with Mukherjee at it's head. 

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