Monday, June 27, 2011

Toronto Police Service Releases G20 Policing Review

On the first anniversary of the Toronto G-20 Summit, the Toronto Police Service released a 70-page “after-action” report into the policing of that weekend.

The report boasts of many successes, including ensuring the safety of the G20 summit delegates and security of the summit sites at all times, but also recognizes that lessons were learned about improving officer training to more efficiently respond to “widespread criminality and mass public disorder”.Chief Blair also points out that the Toronto Police Service was given only “six months to plan for the largest security event in Canadian history”, and “there were no critical injuries or deaths during the G20 Summit”. Although the report later reveals that of the 1118 people arrested, at least “five suffered injuries that they required to go to the hospital”.

The report provides an operational chronology into the related events, activities and peaceful and violent demonstrations in Toronto during June 18 – June 27 that the public may not be aware of and which explains some of the many individual arrests the police made. However, on the highly publicized mass “kettle” or sweeping arrests that have been the subject of much media attention, legal actions and Charter challenges, Chief Blair highlights the need to improve training and communication during operations so that officers can “more effectively respond to criminal activity and public disorder” at the investigative, arrest and processing stages. 

This likely comes in response to the fact that some prisoners went hours without food and water, and faced delays of up to 36 hours before being taken before a Justice of the Peace and speaking with a lawyer, which the report described as a “breakdown in communication”.  The Toronto Star reported last Friday on the story of one man that was allegedly arrested in relation to the G20 and strip-searched.

Some, including well-known criminal and constitutional lawyer Clayton Ruby, have been quick to dispel time and training as justification for being unprepared and overburdened. “They spent a billion dollars, it is not possible for them to be overwhelmed […] my daughter could do better.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), a national organization constituted to promote respect for and observance of fundamental human rights and civil liberties, describes the G20 as the dawning of a new era of policing techniques being foisted on the legal system and a “test of our accountability mechanisms, whether they work appropriately and whether they are sufficient. And they are not.” The CCLA argues that given the volume of identifiable police officers and forces involved in the G20, a single body is necessary to review their conduct and impose sanctions where appropriate. 

Chief Blair’s report indicates that “108 officers have received disciplinary action for removal of identification” and “1 officer was charged under the Criminal Code for Assault with a Weapon”. Yet, the report does not disclose the nature of the disciplinary action and internal investigations the Toronto Police Service’s Professional Standards Unit is managing or supporting.

While the report does include ten laudable recommendations for improving the Toronto Police Service’s ability to police future large-scale events, the report does not address or answer many outstanding questions that linger after the G20. Improving communication within the Force and to the public, police training and policy will certainly help, but more will be required to ensure events do not repeat themselves and those guilty of wrongdoing are held accountable.

The apparent disregard of policies governing officer identification, use of force and searches during the G20 poses serious questions about how effective policy and deployment reform will really be in ensuring that the police “respect the democratic right of individuals to demonstrate” and “freedoms of thought, belief, opinion, expression and peaceful assembly”.  For example, the report does not go on to clarify why protocol was not followed for the kettling containment technique, which requires that “persons not involved in the event must have both a route of egress from and the opportunity to leave the affected area”.

The contention that mass arrests be undertaken to disperse crowds to prevent a small number of vandals breaching the peace is unlikely to pass constitutional scrutiny. Consequently, in a report entitled Caught in the Act, which was released in December 2010, Ontario’s Ombudsman Andre Marin labeled the G20 policing as “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history”.

However, the Ombudsman also singled out Toronto Police, and the Chief in particular, for refusing to cooperate with his investigation into the “secret” Public Works Protection Act legislation and policing surrounding the G20 Summit. Now that Chief Blair and the Toronto Police Service have pledged to “cooperate fully” with independent reviews by the Special Investigations Unit, Toronto Police Services Board, Office of the Independent Police Review Director and former Chief Justice Roy McMurtry on behalf of the Province of Ontario, it remains to be seen how that will help bring about reform in the aftermath of the G20 and lawsuits facing the Toronto Police Service.

Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Windsor Law III)

1 comment:

  1. For a more recent story by the Toronto Star on allegations that the Toronto Police Service is violating its name tag policy, see: