The Toronto Police Department Watched Me Watch Rob Ford Smoking Crack

Five months ago, I flew to Toronto to meet a crack dealer. We hung out together briefly in a car, he showed me a video on his iPhone of the mayor of Toronto smoking crack cocaine, and then he split. Subsequent events unfolded, and for reasons that escape me and make me fundamentally question my settled views on Canada and Canadian-ness, Rob Ford is still the mayor of Toronto. Anyway, it turns out the cops were watching us the whole time.

It was, frankly, a little unnerving to be hanging out with a twitchy crack dealer in the parking lot of a large building devoted to low-income housing (even though, this being Canada, it was nicer and cleaner than most Manhattan residential towers). So to learn, via the Toronto Star's Jayme Poisson, that the crack dealer who was showing me the video was the subject of a Toronto Police Department surveillance operation during our meeting is rather comforting in retrospect.

I did not know this at the time, but the crack dealer I met with is named Mohamed Siad. He has since been arrested in a broad sweep of Somali-Canadian youths purportedly involved in the drug-and-gun trade. And according to a Toronto Police Department surveillance report obtained by Poisson, a team was watching Siad at the very moment we were meeting. They apparently suspected that I was there to purchase a gun from him. From the Star:

It was Tuesday, May 14, and police had learned Siad was to be involved in a possible firearms deal. They’d covertly followed him from his nearby apartment and planned to wait for a transaction, then arrest everyone involved, according to a police surveillance report....

As it turns out, Siad’s meeting with that “unknown party” was the same day, place and time that John Cook, the editor of U.S.-based website Gawker, met with two men trying to sell the Ford “crack video.” (Cook has seen a picture of Siad and believes he was the man who played him the video.)...

While the report offers no details about the cellphone up for sale, it does give a time-stamped sequence of Siad’s movements:

2:53 p.m.: The police crew follows Siad as he drives from his apartment on Richgrove Dr. to the nearby Dixon Rd. highrises.

3 p.m.: Siad parks his black Honda Civic underground at the apartment building at 370 Dixon Rd.

3:12 p.m.: Detectives learn Siad is selling a cellular phone, not a gun.

3:30 p.m.: Surveillance is discontinued for the afternoon and officers attend a debriefing.

It's not clear from the Star report whether the cops knew that I was attempting to buy the cell phone, as opposed to just an old used iPhone. It's been reported that the cops knew about a purported video of Ford smoking crack before any reporters—me or the Star's Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan—had seen it. It's also not clear exactly how the cops on the surveillance team learned, as they were watching Siad get into the car I was sitting in, that our meeting was about a phone and not a gun.

Before our meeting, the tipster who brought me to meet Siad called him from his cell phone. Siad briefly came to the car, but left to go charge the phone's battery. During his absence, the tipster called him from his cell phone again. It seems likely that the cops were listening in on those calls, and heard Siad and the tipster discussing a phone. (It's illegal for Canadian newspapers to publish information about police wiretaps.)

In other news from the Star, the crack house where Rob Ford smoked crack, where his childhood friend lives with his mother, and where he was photographed with three suspected gang members, two of whom were later shot in a gangland style hit, was under police surveillance earlier this year because it was regarded by the Toronto Police Department as "drug house." It's unclear whether they saw Ford there.