At a press conference late last week, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) CEO Rick Leary avoided justifying a memo sent to staff in January of 2021 ordering that arrest be the action of last resort with those displaying unlawful acts on the transit system.
His response, however, confirms the “hug-a-thug, anti-enforcement” attitude he demanded from his safety constables over the past few years.
“They work very closely with staff in the stations … they help and assist those who need their help…we talk about compassion and direct outreach to CAMH.
“No one is told not to arrest … (but) we do a review of all incidents that occur,” he said.
He fumbled the answer so badly that his great protector Mayor John Tory – who handed Leary a $77,000 pay hike in 2021, no questions asked – stepped in to say that every possible action and possible de-escalation is taken before an arrest is made
“But as to when people arrest or don’t arrest…it is up to the special constables… one of the most important jobs of any safety officer is to exercise discretion,” he said.
And there you have it – the TTC’s safety officers were once again thrown under the bus.
The memo referred to in the press conference was from January 25, 2021 spelling out that special constables should only consider making an arrest when: 1. A crime is in progress; 2. Where a failure to make an arrest may result in serious bodily harm or death 3. Where a warrant for arrest is in effect and has been confirmed to be in effect by the jurisdiction that holds the warrant.
“Officers … are to exercise discretion and exhaust all other options including attempting to redirect the person involved prior to making an arrest,” says the memo.
The memo was written by Andrew Dixon, head of the special constable service.
Insiders say he came to the job completely inexperienced from the position of bus instructor because he’d do what Leary told him to do.
Dixon, apparently, has since been transferred out of job, the insiders say.
Speaking on condition of confidentiality for fear of retribution from Leary, insiders speaking to True North traced the decline of enforcement on the TTC and a laissez faire attitude towards homeless sleeping on subway cars and station entrances after former CEO Andy Byford left and Leary took over.
One insider close to the special constable mess said there was a huge turnover of ranked police officers heading up the unit – they went through seven chiefs – because of “meddling from the 7th floor (Leary),” the source said.
About that time, Leary started using high-priced downtown Toronto law firms– an exercise that had to waste millions of dollars – to investigate “frivolous complaints.”
“He (Leary) doesn’t like being told no…he will remember and come after them (those who say no to his unreasonable demands),” the source said.
“He loves appearing woke in front of his city council buddies,” a second source said of Leary. “He’s protected by (John) Tory.”
In fact, Dixon was advised not to write that arrest memo because the TTC’s special constables have the authority and power to arrest and transfer lawbreakers to a police station – the same powers as police, the source said.
But after that memo, and the subsequent firing of two peace officers who intervened during an incident on the 501 streetcar in February of 2020, a chill was sent through the officer ranks.
Dixon was told to fire the two officers under the TTC’s Code of Conduct even though the perpetrator, Steven Thackerberry, pled guilty to assault on them.
“All of the officers became extremely afraid to make arrests because they were afraid of getting fired or investigated,” the source said.
I have tried on two separate occasions to get a comment from Leary or his spokesman Stuart Green about the damning contentions from insiders.
I documented every single contention both times.
In response to a Jan. 9 request, Green indicated he was not going to “dignify anonymous allegations against the CEO”, reiterating that “safety is the TTC’s top priority.”
My Jan. 27 request also went unanswered.
The second source says the edicts from Leary, the constant investigations and firings, are “absolutely a huge factor” in what’s going on.
The source said the TTC has also been negligent by letting street people continue to loiter in stations – a situation that ramped up during COVID when the homeless got “pretty comfortable” on the subway.
There is no “deterrent” because safety inspectors are “scared” to do their jobs, said the second source.
“Inspectors are now trying to actively avoid arrest,” the second source said. “People (lawbreakers) have a good idea TTC cops can’t do ‘shit’ to you.”
The point is, extra cops would not be needed if TTC peace officers were just permitted to do their jobs without fear of being investigated or fired.
The question also remains whether the situation with the infusion of 80 extra cops will be window dressing only.
Will they also be required to just stand there watching someone breaking the law and not act?
Tory and Leary evaded answering when asked that question at last week’s press conference.