Toronto residents shocked to learn about licensed bar inside TPS headquarters
Why (and how) do police in Canada's largest city have access to a fully-stocked, liquor-licensed bar inside their own office building? It's a question many in Toronto are asking today in the wake of an explosive report from CBC News highlighting the existence of an "Executive Officers Lounge" at TPS (Toronto Police Service) headquarters.
As first reported by The Sun's Joe Warmington all the way back in 2012, a full-on bar has existed on the fourth floor of the Toronto Police headquarters building at 40 College St. since 1988.
Joe Warmington wrote about the fully-licensed bar at Toronto police headquarters in 2012:— raw sugar (@DesmondCole) April 3, 2023
"several officers confirm there was an incident four years ago where one senior officer was in a car accident after they’d been drinking in this bar."https://t.co/QHm96eMK9G pic.twitter.com/GrcQHHnNII
Accessible only by senior officers, the venue was said at the time to be "routinely topped up with fine wines, the best spirits and several popular brands of bottled beer."
It would appear as though the licensed lounge has long been internally contentious, but few members of the public seemed aware of the fact that senior cops could legally grab a drink at the office until Monday morning, when CBC reported that a TPS superintendent had been present at the on-site watering hole before landing himself an impaired charge last January.
"A Toronto Police Service superintendent entered a lounge with a licensed fully stocked bar in police headquarters about three hours before he crashed his service-issued SUV into another vehicle in Pickering, Ont., and was charged with impaired driving in January 2022," wrote the public broadcaster in a piece published on April 3, 2023.
"Supt. Riyaz Hussein, who headed the service's disciplinary tribunal, pleaded guilty in October to driving with a blood alcohol level over 80 mg per 100 ml of blood."
Former head of the Toronto police disciplinary tribunal, Supt. Riyaz Hussein, 54, was driving a black Toronto police SUV on Highway 401 with an open bottle of the popular rum underneath the driver's seat.— ❌Eltie 👉 fringe minority (@eltie196_) July 26, 2022
Hussein pleaded guilty to his impaired charges at the time, and guilty once again on Monday to one count of "discreditable conduct" when appearing before the tribunal. He has been demoted for one year, as a result, from police superintendent to inspector.
According to the CBC, which obtained security logs for the lounge through a Freedom of Information request, Hussein's pass was scanned into the bar on Jan. 12, 2022, at 4:31 p.m. — just over three hours before the officer crashed his vehicle into a truck in Pickering, Ontario.
"It's unclear how long Hussein was in the Executive Officers Lounge and whether or not he drank in the room," wrote the outlet.
"But his presence there leading up to the crash on Highway 401 has police stakeholders questioning the appropriateness of a bar within a public institution like police headquarters and potential liability issues."
Supt Riyaz Hussein, who headed the service's disciplinary tribunal, pleaded guilty….will appear before the Toronto police disciplinary tribunal on related Police Service Act charges today.” WHAT? What?? What??? How is even happening? He heads that tribunal, HE’S THE BOSS? https://t.co/tp8loOURmd— D (@donhanzel) April 3, 2023
Law enforcement officials aren't alone in questioning what the heck is going on here now that word is spreading online of the licensed cop-only lounge.
"How, in the year of our Lord 2023, is there a fully stocked bar for cops inside Toronto Police HQ?" remarked one Twitter user of the exposé.
"Almost every cop I've ever met has bragged to me about how he abuses the system," wrote another. "I used to know one who would talk about how he drinks and drives and just flashes his badge if he gets pulled over. WHY is there a licensed lounge in Toronto Police HQ?"
Toronto Police Superintendent used the liquor lounge at work (why do police have this?) and then drove drunk in his police issues vehicle and got into a car accident. Punishment? 12 month demotion. #toronto #torontopolice #ontario #frankdomenic🍁 pic.twitter.com/M0G9fdT0hl— Frank Domenic (@TheFrankDomenic) April 3, 2023
Some were more upset than anything over how much taxpayer money has been spent (and is still being spent) on providing free booze to cops.
Citizens of #Toronto, you pay to keep the beer cold for the boys at the #swanky Toronto Police Services Headquarters. Part of the $1.1 Billion budget. They drink it, and then they go out driving around waiting to kill someone. Riyaz Hussein doesn't care, he gets paid ($200k/yr). pic.twitter.com/S5Xxt9Gjra— Capital City Public Eye (@CCPeye) April 3, 2023
Others are calling for better oversight into how funds are being used at police headquarters across the province.
"Not only does Toronto police HQ have a licensed bar, but the RCMP's national headquarters in Ottawa and its 'O' Division HQ in London, Ont. also have liquor licenses," wrote one critic. "Why does anyone, but esp. those charged with enforcing our laws, need a bar at work?"
Most are simply shocked to learn that such a lounge exists.
I'm sorry...Toronto Police HQ has a LICENSED, FULLY-STOCKED BAR??? https://t.co/t9nMjc6Vhl— H.G. Watson (@HG_Watson) April 3, 2023
A TPS spokesperson wrote in a statement to CBC News that, while the service can't formally comment on matters before tribunal, the Executive Officers Lounge "has maintained a liquor licence for many years and is subject to the Ontario Liquor Licence Act, which requires alcoholic beverages be served by a Smart Serve certified person."
"The licence is used infrequently and largely for formal functions, including retirements or when hosting dignitaries," said the spokesperson.
"The space itself is mostly used for meetings or a quiet place to work."
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