By TOM GODFREY
An online petition has been launched seeking to have Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory keep Dr. Alok Mukherjee as chair of the Toronto Police Services Board despite calls for his resignation.
More than 130 residents have so far signed the petition to show their support for Dr. Mukherjee, who the Toronto Police Association wants removed from the Board over a December 4 posting on Facebook.
The association is conducting a letter-writing campaign against Mukherjee, who has been on the Board for 10 years.
“His sole intentions of the post were to promote conversation with regards to current issues, particularly those that are taking place next door in the U.S.,” the petition stated. “Mukherjee should not be punished for an action that has done no harm to the police service or the city.”
The call for his resignation began last week after he shared a post on his Facebook account by activist group Occupy Wall Street that read: “Americans killed by ISIS: 3, Americans killed by Ebola: 2, Americans killed by the police: 500 every year.”
Mukherjee said he has the utmost respect for the force and the post was meant to start a dialogue on policing in Toronto.
He has been receiving a steady stream of support from members of the community, who claim the posting is correct and Mukherjee should remain in office until his term expires in 2016.
“He has done nothing wrong and he should not resign,” said Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee. “The information is factually correct and it has sparked a national debate.”
Gilliam said Mukherjee has been a fair and level-headed chair, who is willing to work with the community.
He said the community is upset that Councillor Michael Thompson was removed from the Board by Tory, even though he was instrumental in helping to deal with racial profiling and carding concerns by the community.
Thompson, who supported Mukherjee, called the controversy “much ado about nothing”.
Several seats on the Board have yet to be filled and a meeting that was planned for next week has been cancelled.
Association head, Michael McCormack, said letters of complaints against Mukherjee will be going to Wynne, Tory, the Board and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission.
Meanwhile, Mukherjee supporters have gone online to air their views about how he has improved policing in Toronto.
Alexandra Tomachevski, of Scarborough, said she is shocked that people are trying to silence Mukherjee for promoting a serious discussion about policing.
“It is important that we as the public have this discussion,” Tomachevski wrote. “I think it is much more important that people in positions such as Mukherjee do the same.”
Kenneth Field, of Toronto, said it is wrong for the Association to pressure a member of the civilian oversight board to resign.
“Allowing the Association to influence the composition of the board through pressure would threaten the legitimacy of that body and the value of community representation it seeks to represent,” he said.
“The police violence that had been in the news lately is truly horrifying,” wrote Jenny Taylor. “It is important that we have someone in a position of power within the Toronto Police who acknowledges what is happening across the border.”