No more Wooley.... woo hooo
OPP to ditch traffic blitzes
New commissioner Fantino says there's nothing funny in highway carnage; denies he's trying to muzzle Sgt. Cam Woolley
Ontario's provincial police force will no longer use media-friendly roadside traffic "blitzes" – long a staple of long weekend newscasts – as part of their effort to get dangerous drivers off the road, says OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino. Instead, provincial police will simply be "unrelenting" in their pursuit of aggressive and irresponsible drivers, Fantino writes in an open letter on the force's website – a change in tactic that reflects his tough, no-nonsense approach, but appears to have caught the provincial government off guard.
The blitzes, which target unsafe drivers during busy periods on the province's highways, have long been a central component of the force's media-relations strategy, often taking a breezy, casual and sometimes comic approach that mocks some of the worst offenders. It's an approach that appears to be cramping Fantino's style. "There's nothing funny about unsafe motor vehicles or what people do out there to put the public in danger," the commissioner said today in an interview.
He said he doesn't want to hear any more "humorous stories about those who compromise public safety" – colourful anecdotes that he complained members of the media tend to focus on. "I think it trivializes the carnage and the reality of the danger that's out there."
Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield said Thursday the traffic blitzes have been very successful, especially in raising public awareness about the dangers of aggressive driving, and she's worried they won't be as effective without the OPP's participation. "The public awareness and education has been phenomenal," Cansfield said. "We're really, really supportive of the blitzes. We know they work and are very effective."
Cansfield said her office was not notified about Fantino's decision to put a stop to the blitzes, which she insisted are very helpful in getting unsafe vehicles off the roads. "The whole idea is prevention," she said. "I mean, you can give somebody a ticket, but if they're dead, it's irrelevant."
Fantino rejected suggestions he was trying to reign in Sgt. Cam Woolley, the gregarious officer and media spokesman whose familiar face and voice have long been a fixture of the roadside blitzes.
"It's not about Sgt. Woolley," said Fantino. "It's about the OPP's vision going forward, and I'm not criticizing anything that's happened in the past. I'm just telling you the way it's going to be in the future." Woolley did not immediately return telephone calls Thursday. The Ontario Safety League, which also participates in the long weekend traffic blitzes, said Thursday it couldn't imagine the OPP would want to lose what they consider a very effective messaging strategy when it comes to public safety.
"The commissioner is probably better informed now, that it's not all about an individual or the OPP," said League president Brian Patterson. "It's about provincewide messaging on safety." Patterson said he, for one, likes the light-hearted stories that often come out of the traffic blitzes because they become very effective tools at getting the safety message across. "I'm a bit of a fan of the quirky comments of the safety blitz weekends. We're fans of Sgt. Woolley's involvement," he said.
"You can't travel on a long weekend in Ontario without hearing a number of safety messages that are a direct result of coordinating those long weekend blitzes." Patterson said if the blitzes are going to be replaced with a different program, the Safety League wants to make sure authorities can continue to get the safety message out.
Yoda of Radar
Know what Spanky... RoadWarrior always said he really liked Fantino...
So I guess Fantino pulled out the "Wooley-Waller 2007" out and pared him back eh? (anyone who hasn't seen the tetesaclaques.tv stuff has absolutely no idea what I'm referring to).