Toronto police say existing "tension" between rival high-school football teams was a factor in an attending officer's decision to get a TTC bus to pick up the team coached by Mayor Rob Ford.
The incident occurred last Thursday, during a football game involving players from Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School and Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School — the latter being the squad that Ford coaches.
Supt. Ron Taverner told reporters Tuesday that police had been informed by the administration at Don Bosco that there was concern about the potential for problems when the two teams met on the field at Father Henry Carr, which is located on Martin Grove Road near Finch Avenue West.
The game took place as scheduled, with five officers assigned to be there. Taverner listed the on-site officers as a pair of school resource officers, two constables from the neighbourhood safety unit and a sergeant, who later made the decision to call the TTC.
Taverner said that as the game went on the Don Bosco Eagles were winning "by a substantial margin," when an on-field incident stopped play.
"There was a play that took place where the referee made a call that outraged some of the coaching staff from Father Henry Carr," Taverner said.
"At that time, due to a confrontation on the field with the coaching staff and the referee, the game was called, suspended by the referee."
While the players did not get involved, Taverner said the on-site sergeant spoke with administrators from both schools and eventually made the call to the TTC.
"It was out of caution for something happening and community safety that it was a decision made by the sergeant to call for a shelter bus," Taverner said.
"That bus was called for and arrived and the members of the Don Bosco team were put on the bus and taken away accordingly."
Mayor not involved in decision
Taverner said Ford played no role in getting the shelter bus sent to the football field to pick up his team.
"At no time was the mayor involved in any of the decision making with regards to a bus being called," Taverner said.
Taverner said the sergeant who made the call stands behind the decision she made on Nov. 1.
"At the end of it, when the bus left, the field was calm and we feel that a situation was diffused," he said.
He also said the cold and rainy weather wasn’t the reason a shelter bus was called.
Away from the field, it turned out that the TTC would end up sending two buses to pick up the players — the 36 Finch West bus was first sent to the field, but staff later sent the 46 Martin Grove bus when the former had trouble finding the high school.
In the end, it was the 36 Finch West bus that ended up picking up the players and the second bus returned to regular service.
Fifty TTC customers were forced off the 36 Finch West bus that was sent to the Father Henry Carr field, while the 46 Martin Grove was not carrying any customers when it was diverted.
TTC CEO Andy Byford said Tuesday that it is regrettable that paying customers were inconvenienced and he said the organization tries to avoid using in-service buses to accommodate shelter bus requests.
However, Byford said TTC staff have reviewed the protocol that governs how shelter buses are dispatched and he is satisfied that it works effectively most of the time.
"I’m satisfied that generally that protocol is robust," Byford told reporters gathered outside the TTC headquarters at Davisville and Yonge.
While in hindsight the circumstances surrounding the Nov. 1 call may seem "unusual," Byford said the TTC should honour the requests it receives from emergency responders.
"If they ask us for a shelter bus, my view is we should provide it," he said.