Last week, for Here’s The Thing (Camões TV), Manuel DaCosta interviewed Craig Bromell. With the intent to understand the behind the scenes of law enforcement, there’s no one better to enlighten us than Bromell who was a police officer for 26 years. He also served as President of the Toronto Police Association from 1997 to 2003 and served as Director to the Canadian Police Association. Bromell wrote a book “The Cop Father” and started a podcast with the same name which purpose is to give a voice to the police, sharing their stories and their reality.
Besides his years of public service, Bromell became a radio personality with is show “The Bromell Show” on AM640. He is not new in the entertainment industry as he was the executive director of the TV series “The Bridge”. Today, he is the CEO of his security company, Bromell Associates, and he is the President of The Building Union of Canada.
MDC: You have been a busy man during all these years.
CB: That’s true, even though I have run unions in the past, I just didn’t believe in retiring. We keep working, it keeps us young and keeps the mind going. And I have been lucky too, I had great opportunities throughout my life to move on to other ventures. After being a police officer for 26 years here in Toronto, I was led to other things that I really enjoyed in life.
MDC: Being a police officer for that many years gave you a good foundation and insight knowledge for everything you have done after that.
CB: Law enforcement personal kept me appraise on what is going on behind the scenes. The Cop Father podcast is really about what is going on behind the scenes. The way police officers are affected everywhere in the world also affects the communities at large. We always want them to do their job, according to the way they were trained, but now there is a lot of politics behind the scenes that affects the frontline personal, now more than ever. I didn’t really saw anybody supporting the frontline, which 98% of police officers are really doing their jobs in a professional way. In a city like Toronto, thousands of calls come to the radio, to dispatch police officers to different communities and they always end up satisfactory in the vast majority of the time, 99% of the time people are satisfied with the service they received from the police. That doesn’t get talked about enough.
We only ear about the bad apple on the front-page news and the Cop Father podcast intends to educate on what really is going on behind the scenes, the real hero stories and the amount of suffering that police officers are going through now. That was the idea, because I don’t see anybody else doing it. I protected police officers my all life, being the President of the Toronto Police Association and that was on the most rewarding job I have ever had… protecting those who protect others. That led to everything else I’m doing now, I’m involved in various projects, security, construction and I’m lucky, I have people calling me telling me what is going on.
MDC: Speaking to some of my friends in the police force, it seems to me that the morale is quite low due to the pressures you have mentioned and the cops not receiving enough recognition for all the good work they do. In most cases, even after the investigation and after being absolved for everything, the news still don’t project that in a proper way. I’m glad they have a voice with you to tell their stories.
CB: Any police officer… they just want to do their jobs. They are expected to do many jobs that they should not be doing. The social work side of this shouldn’t be law enforcement. They are out there to keep the community safe against criminals and people that take advantage of the vulnerable. That’s the way it was designed. All the social work and other side shows going on, that wasn’t designed for law enforcement. Any of your viewers, when they need help from the police, they want them to be there as fast as they can, they don’t want them doing other issues they shouldn’t be bothering with. They are there for emergency situations, to fight crime and to solve crime. All the other side issues going on, they don’t want to be part of it. I think, there has to be a voice out there, someone that’s not intimidated. Being antipolice is a multibillion-dollar industry in North America. People make a lot of money being antipolice, whether they are doing it on purpose or not. As far as I’m concern, all the governments cave in too much. The vast majority of people still want police doing what they are doing now. We live in a very imperfect world and officers are only human and we will make mistakes once in a while.
MDC: I see the politics involved and, in many cases, they are easy targets for political opportunism. As you know, special interest groups will always have the ear of the Mayor and the Police Board. It’s tough when they don’t have people defending them. What do you think about the changes with the Police Chief being an interim Chief during the pandemic? Who should be taking over the Police Chief position, should it be someone from the city or a recruiter from outside?
CB: First of all, I think we should be concerned that it’s taking so long. They have been doing interviews and obviously haven’t come across with who they want, whoever that person is. I heard they are searching globally to a position like this. You have to remember, when they pick the Chief and they go for an interview, they only have to satisfy seven people, that’s the Police Service Board. To break it down even more, you only need to have 4 people, out of 4 million people, supporting you. There will be some City and Provincial politics involved, because both governments are represented on the Police Service Board. It shouldn’t be taking this long. It’s a no-win position, it’s almost like you signing a blanc resignation. You sign it and we will fill the date to when we are not satisfied with your work. It’s hard to be a Police Chief anywhere without political interference at the highest level.
The concern from the frontline is that they don’t want someone that will come in and just agree with City Hall or, the antipolice side of this, without listening to the frontline personal. I believe that in a city like Toronto, there’s enough talent and it should always come from within the police service, that person knows the service better than anybody else. What I have always thought is that however gets the job as Chief should pick their own Command, so the Deputy Chiefs below should come from the new Chief. If they want, they can clean the house and pick who they want. I always thought this was an issue because if people at City Hall or the Police Service Board are not happy with your performances at command, the new Chief, as long as he/she keeps the Deputies, doesn’t stand a chance because we are old school.
MDC: It’s a governance and trust issue. Do you think the current mayor and councillors are behind the police or there’s still a division out there thinking the existing council is so left wing?
CB: I don’t want to say left or right. I’m very disappointed to some of what John Tory, the Mayor, has done. Somethings it looks like he is doing backflips to try to satisfy people that are not pro law and order. I think some members of City Council are like that, even when I ran the Police Union in Toronto it was the same thing. We believed in educating those people on what is really going on out there. Last year, a discussion came up about all these issues within the black community and they wanted to start renaming streets after prominent black citizens. I’m fine with that but at the same time they were never talking about renaming streets after some police officers who were murdered or killed in the line of duty. Why wouldn’t you do both at the same time? I expected that from the Mayor. Even in other communities, let’s do it, I think it’s a good thing, but a really big part of our society is the police. They control everything, if the crime is down, you will have better real estate values, more tourism. There are certain parts of the world where you don’t go buy a house or go on vacation because the crime is really bad. Thus, it’s important that the police keep the crime down. What is wrong with naming streets after officers who have died in the line of duty? That was never talked about, so the frontline was very upset with that. The police should be included in that conversation, especially the officers, we had many in Toronto and in the Province of Ontario, who have died protecting us.
MDC: As this city changes, becoming more and more complex with ethnic divisions, the police have a tougher job accommodating every custom and tradition from every community. That will be one of the biggest issues in the future. Just recruiting people to accommodate all ethnicities will not work.
CB: If you call 911, I think there are 150 different languages. It’s a beautiful thing in the city that we have different communities and different groups from around the world, and if you call 911, they cover every language from every community group that lives here in the city of Toronto. That makes what the city is today, a global city. But we have a tendency to bow to make too much of a big deal of small groups that are going to get the media coverage. The grandstanding that goes by some politicians at City Hall is to appease these small groups. Sometimes it makes me sick because I truly believe, when it’s all said and done, including the groups that are antipolice, everybody still calls the police when they need help, that hasn’t and will not change. In this City or in this Province, in this Country, 95% of the people that are in trouble are going to call the police because something is wrong.
If you are out working and your wife or husband and kids are home by themselves and someone is breaking in, you are calling 911. You don’t care what the situation was, you want the police to get there as fast as possible and when that cop is responding to that, they are not asking questions on what’s the color or sex of the victim or where are they from. They will rush there as fast as they can, no matter who the person that is in trouble, they don’t care, they never have.
The grandstanding on the back of that, I think it should make a lot of us disgusted because 98% of the officers out there are doing their job. That’s the officer you want showing up at your house when you need help.
MDC: It’s unfortunate that a lot of disturbers make a living out of an anti-cop approach. Unfortunately, mainstream media gives a voice to these groups and in many cases the message is not balanced. This week, on Milenio Stadium, we will be covering the business on Cannabis and the status of the industry. Having always been in security including providing it for three years for the cannabis industry, you have first-hand knowledge on what is going on with the industry. Right now, most companies are disarray, and I don’t know how many will survive, considering that 80% of pot is still sold through the black market. What is your experience with this?
CB: The black-market side of Cannabis, both recreational and medicinal, is 60 to 80%, of which 30 to 40% is organized crime. Since it has gone legal, there are still unsolved murders and robberies involving Cannabis. It’s a huge concerned because of the organized crime side of it. For some reason, in the city of Toronto they are only making It a city bylaw offense, where outside the city they are laying criminal charges. So, we have a couple hundred legal stores, that follow the government rules, the store fronts are open, and most people are doing it online now because of the virus. There are still half a dozen stores that are completely illegal, and they are affecting the official side and I’ve been told that the reason they keep going is because the city of Toronto only made it a bylaw, so they get a fine instead of getting arrested or having criminal charges. Besides, there are still 77 municipalities in this province that have not yet jumped to the legal side of Cannabis, meaning the black market operates there. As long as the black-market dominates more than 60% this will never work. Believe me, you can get the law enforcement to change that 60% to 10 or 20% in six months, if there was an appetite for it, which I don’t think there is.
MDC: The Ontario Government has a 77% markup on the sale of Cannabis products.
CB: When the government has this kind of markup and now is authorizing stores in every corner, as fast as they can, I don’t believe the retailers can make money and the black-market will stay as it is.
CB: If you have a retail store under the Cannabis Act, which is legislated in the Province, you have to pay taxes, you are in a competitive world and need to keep the prices at a certain value. While the black-market doesn’t pay taxes, they are up 20 to 30% and it’s a cash industry. So, I would never get involved in that industry until the black-market is controlled, I would never get involved in any investment in any company that is trying to go by the book, they don’t have a chance. When this all ting started, it was the Holy Grail of investments, but a lot of people gave lost money on this, because the government hasn’t done enough to control the black-market. There’s no investment in enforcement. As long as the black market is controlling the industry, it will never work.
MDC: In 2020, between July and October, were seized 122,000 illegal plants of Cannabis in Ontario. Is the illegal growth of Cannabis plants proliferated in some specific areas and who controls it?
CB: It’s organized crime, whatever that definition is, it’s vicious, violent people. They are in the intimidation world and when you find out there’s a few dozens of municipalities in the province that don’t want to have anything to do with the legal side, for whatever reason. Those are the groups, the bikers, the organized crime, dealing with the Cannabis side. It’s like anything on the black-market, whether it’s prostitution, gambling, throw Cannabis on that and we have a big problem. Until they control it, the industry doesn’t stand a chance.
MDC: We will never be able to control the black-market completely. In 2018, when Cannabis was legalized, there was a huge runup on the IPOs and everyone investing billions. Now Aurora Cannabis just reported 292 million lost in the second quarter, from 1.3 billion lost last year. There are 1.2 billion grams of weed stored across Canada, which is enough to supply for three years. How can the industry survive?
CB: It can’t. I agree with you that the black-market will always be around, but it shouldn’t be 68% of the industry, let’s cut it back to 10 or 20%. If we cut it back by half, industries as Aurora will be doing much better or not losing a billion dollars here and there. Otherwise, they don’t have a chance. Whether it’s the federal, provincial or municipal government there should be an offense that is a bylaw offense. It should be arrestable, there should be some serious charges, proceeds of crime, trafficking of a substance, all that piled on. Just In the province, I know you could get a couple hundred law enforcement officers together to be concentrated on just that, laying criminal charges and shutting down these black-market industries.
You mentioned the big seizure of plants, that is a spit in the ocean compared to what is out there. The number may sound impressive, but that’s small. I believe in recreational and especially medicinal, I have seen how it helps people, whether is mental health, bad back or cancer, it does work.
MDC: Why don’t governments get behind it?
CB: They are going to fall back on excuses as there’s too many things going on. We haven’t talked about it, but defunding the police means that you are not going to be able to build an enforcement able to focus on black-market Cannabis. Being tough on law and order is really a taboo statement, I believe in it and I’ve seen results. I think they are afraid of the backlash. Somebody should say: give us six months, we will control this. No matter what investing market, Cannabis will control things going up and down. Last year the industry suffered and outside of Cannabis any other investments will suffer too. It has been a disaster, no doubt about it. I think they may have 400 stores in Ontario. The Ontario Cannabis Store is doing a good job, they are trying but they are frustrated. They want to shut down these illegals now. They don’t want a storefront that is making a lot of money, simply getting a bylaw and the cops are frustrated too. I think they don’t have the stomach for it because it’s not the political think to do, shutting down the black market. However, if you look at the numbers, the black-market side of it it’s still a violent world and to me it’s sickening they are not doing more. I would not invest one dollar in the industry right now.
MDC: Which is unfortunate because the industry employs a lot of people and it creates a lot of revenue.
CB: This has nothing to do with the virus, it was all happening before.
MDC: I appreciate your input and really enjoyed our conversation. I wish you luck with your blog “The cop father”. Thank you for being with us.