Ron Taverner: Set Up to Fail?

There has been widespread criticism of the appointment of Doug Ford’s crony Ron Taverner as Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Taverner’s current position is superintendent of 3 units in Toronto. In the hierarchy of Canadian policing, there are 6 ranks: inspector, staff inspector, superintendent, staff superintendent, deputy commissioner (or deputy chief), and commissioner (or chief). In his 50 year career, Taverner has advanced from the sixth to the fourth. After the job of OPP Commissioner was posted, the minimum qualifications were lowered to the superintendent level, presumably to enable Taverner to apply.

Former OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis spoke to CP 24, making the point that Taverner has been promoted from leading a unit of 200 to leading an organization of 9000, which is “a whole different world.” He also called the appointment “a real kick to the OPP and its senior officers” and speculated that “the fix was in from day one.” Many critics, for example, law professor Kent Roach of the University of Toronto, fear that this appointment could jeopardize the independence of the police, for example in investigating allegations concerning Ford and his government.

I want to look at this appointment from a different perspective – Taverner’s. Why would he want the job? Yes, he is helping out his buddy the premier and earning a bigger salary. But he is also 72 years old, well past normal retirement age and already drawing his pension. He will be trying to climb a very steep learning curve, surrounded by senior colleagues who feel they are more qualified, and under intense media and opposition party scrutiny. Why would he want the hassle?

There have already been leaks to the media about Taverner. He faces accusations of mishandling a sexual harassment complaint in his unit and will have to testify before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in the spring. He purchased a house from a Ford staffer in a private sale. How many more leaks about his record and his relationship with the Fords can he expect? And if he screws up as commissioner or shows the slightest bias towards the premier, can’t he expect the story will very quickly find its way to the pages of The Star and The Globe?

With this appointment, Ford has done a real disservice to himself, to the independence of the police, and to Superintendent Taverner. Friends don’t set up friends to fail.

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