Toronto police chief announces investigators have elusive crack video
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
The Toronto Police Service has confirmed that it is now in possession of a “digital video file,” which is said to show Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at an Etobicoke house, showing images that are allegedly consistent with previous reports on Ford’s activities—a reference to the allegations that Ford was filmed smoking crack cocaine.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said at a press conference that he was “disappointed,” after announcing that his officers were now investigating the contents of the video.
Reports of the video being in police possession came as a shock to residents of Canada’s largest city, and occurred on the same day of the arrest of Ford’s occasional driver and friend Alexander Lisi, who is charged with attempting to retrieve a video of Ford through extortion.
Several persistent reports suggest that Lisi, in addition to being Ford’s occasional driver, also procured drugs for the Toronto mayor.
Earlier this year, a source tipped off the Toronto Star and Gawker.com about having a damning video of Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine. The reporters met with the video’s owner in Toronto and were shown the video. Reporters were convinced of its authenticity, but were met with the demand for a hefty payment to purchase the video. Gawker successfully raised the $200,000 to purchase the video, but when the money had been raised, the video and its owner had mysteriously disappeared.
Chief Blair’s press conference has revived the nationwide debate about the mayor’s capacity to lead Toronto’s 2.8-million people. All four of Toronto’s major newspapers have called on the mayor to resign—including the Toronto Sun, formerly one of Ford’s supporters.
In response to media questions about the video, the mayor said that he has no plans to step aside. “I have no reason to resign,” said Ford.
Ford added that he is unable to comment on the video because ”it’s before the courts right now.” The video, however, is currently in police custody, and there is no provision preventing the mayor from commenting publicly on the video.
It is a change of tune in the embattled mayor’s version of events: in May, he repeatedly told residents and reporters that he could not comment on “a video I haven’t seen or does not exist.”
Ford’s brother, Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford, has called for the Toronto Police Service to release the video to the public to allow residents to make their own conclusions.
Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash has asserted that the police must turn evidence over to the courts, and the courts “have the authority to decide whether that should be released…” He continued, stating that, “I know that media lawyers are already working on that process to get the video released.”
Dennis Morris, Ford’s lawyer, has been particularly critical of police Chief Bill Blair for comments he made at the press conference, specifically the comment about him being personally “disappointed.”
“[Chief Blair] has a duty to report news in a dispassionate fashion,” said Morris, adding that Blair should immediately make the video public.
Toronto police have confirmed that they are trying to interview Ford in relation to their criminal investigation of Alexander Lisi, but thus far the police have not received a response from the mayor’s office.