Ron Tavener has withdrawn his name from consideration as OPP Commissioner.
In a letter to Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Sylvia Jones, Taverner said his decision was made to “protect the integrity of rank and file police officers given the controversy surrounding my appointment.”
Taverner, 72, did not initially qualify for the role, but the government said it lowered the requirements for the job to attract a wider range of candidates.
Taverner is also a longtime family friend of Premier Doug Ford — a fact that led then-OPP deputy commissioner, Brad Blair, to ask the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate Taverner’s hiring.
On Monday, Blair was fired.
In a statement, Premier Ford thanked Taverner and lamented what he called the politicizing of the hiring process.
“On behalf of the Government, I want to thank Ron Taverner for putting his name forward,” Ford wrote. “His fifty years of policing experience and support for the front-lines would have been a tremendous asset to the OPP and to the people of Ontario. It is very unfortunate that the opposition has chosen to politicize this process rather than focusing on how we can support our front-line officers.
Interim OPP Commissioner Gary Couture will remain in the post for the time being, Jones’ office said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said despite Taverner’s withdrawal, a full investigation into the matter is still needed.
“Today, Supt. Ron Taverner did what Doug Ford has continuously refused to do, and preserved the OPP’s integrity with his withdrawal,” Horwath said in a statement. “This mysterious and abrupt about-face makes a full public inquiry into Doug Ford’s meddling in the OPP all the more critical.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the circumstances surrounding Taverner’s appointment meant there was no way public trust could be maintained if he assumed the role. An independent appointment process to select a new commissioner must now move forward, he said.
“This decision is in the best interest of the OPP and the people of Ontario,” Schreiner said in a statement. “The job as the province’s highest ranking police officer is too important to be saddled with even the appearance of political interference.”
In December, Taverner rescinded his resignation from Toronto police and returned to his old job as unit commander of three divisions in the city’s northwest end.
At that time, Taverner requested his appointment to the OPP’s top job be delayed until an investigation into allegations of political interference in the hiring process was complete.
Chief Mark Saunders says Taverner will continue to be the unit commander in Etobicoke “where he has proudly served Toronto.”
“He has made this very personal decision today and he continues to have the support of the Toronto Police Service,” Sauders said in a brief statement.
Ford has repeatedly defended Taverner, saying in December that he believed the officer would be appointed OPP Commissioner after the Integrity Commissioner finished his probe.
“This going to move forward,” Ford said at the time. “Let the review take place, and I can tell you one thing, once it gets done, he will be the best commissioner the OPP has ever seen.”
With files from the Canadian Press