Q&A: Ontario’s ombudsman on police thuggery, Robin Thicke and throwing snowballs at Dalton McGuinty
In the aftermath of the Sammy Yatim shooting, ombudsman André Marin wants to change the way cops use lethal force
As the ombudsman of Ontario, you tell powerful people in the public sector when they’re wrong. That can be volatile work. Case in point: the online backlash to your investigation into police de-escalation policies.
You’re referring to the Twitter user I exposed as a Durham police officer who was tweeting bigoted, hateful comments at me in an attempt at intimidation.
He was alleging that you’re an al-Qaeda operative and suggested you stick your “big French nose up your butt.” How did you figure out who he was?
We have smart IT people in our office.
The only problem is, you identified the wrong officer and took two days to apologize. Isn’t that hypocritical?
I was in the hospital for a colonoscopy when that news broke. Once I had conclusive proof that it wasn’t the officer I’d mentioned, I apologized.
Your de-escalation investigation is underway. Aren’t police already trained in de-escalation?
They are trained in police college, but after that, it’s left to each force. I’m looking at province-wide guidelines.
Many believe that police thuggery is the problem—not a lack of de-escalation training.
Some officers have difficulty understanding that the law applies to them just as it does to regular citizens.
What can we realistically expect from investigations into police conduct?
It’s hard to say. From 2008 to March 2013, the SIU sent 106 letters to Chief Blair indicating police misconduct: trampling the crime scene, notification delays, doctoring notes. He only responded to one. It’s outrageous.
You must make a lot of enemies. Does your job impinge on your social calendar?
Sure. I’m left off of invite lists all the time. It doesn’t bother me.
Being the highest moral authority in the province must also mean you can’t ever hit the clubs or let it rip on the highway.
It does, but that’s not so bad. I’m a bit of a loner, and I hate driving. Especially in Toronto—it’s madness. I hand the keys to my wife.
Surely you break some rules, though.
Not really. I don’t speed by more than 10 kilometres an hour. My last ticket was in 2004. I paid it.
So you don’t have any vices?
Wendy’s quarter-pounders. I ate one the other day, and then my wife called me and suggested we meet up for a bite. I told her I’d already eaten. She asked where. I stumbled all over myself: “Oh, you know, down where I was doing the shopping, I just picked something up. . .” Sometimes I’ll have a dry martini. My stepson is a bartender and likes sangria and boozy 7-Up concoctions. Not me. I don’t eat sweets. No desserts, no sugar.
That doesn’t sound like very much fun.
I’m serious about my diet. My kitchen looks like a pharmaceutical lab—pills, whey protein, creatine, glutamine, rhodiola, matcha, taurine. It allows me to lift a lot in the gym, and it’s working: I’m benching 245 pounds now. I’ve put on 65 pounds of muscle, and my body fat is 12 per cent. My 15-year-old son, Hugo, is my spotter.
Hugo is presumably in the thick of adolescent rebellion. How’s that going for you?
Great, actually. He’s the most happy-go-lucky little kid in the world. We look identical, like Alan and Robin Thicke.
That’s an unexpected reference. Robin Thicke sings “Blurred Lines.” That music video is full of buxom, barely clothed women dancing around. Are you a fan?
I’m don’t know, but I like the video. What can I say? I’m a guy.
You’re also combative, especially in your press conferences. Were you a fighter as a kid?
No, I’m more of an arguer. I grew up on the same street as Dalton McGuinty in Ottawa. He was 10 years my senior. We used to throw snowballs at each other. Maybe that’s what got me started.