The head of Ontario's top civilian police watchdog says he's encouraged by Toronto police Chief Bill Blair's response to a report released Wednesday that criticizes his force for acting too aggressively and violating people's rights during the G20 summit in 2010.
The report by the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) found that many aspects of policing the summit went reasonably well but, in other cases, police ignored "the basic rights of citizens under the charter."
OIPRD head Gerry McNeilly concluded some officers used “excessive force” to clamp down on any and all protesters, with Toronto police commanders acting on orders for "the largest mass arrests in Canadian history."
Blair on Wednesday refused to apologize for police actions during the June 25-27 summit in downtown Toronto, although he did accept the OIPRD's findings and conceded police could have done better.
"Chief Blair has in fact indicated yesterday that he takes responsibility. I'm encouraged by the fact that he's said that," McNeilly told CBC's Metro Morning.
McNeilly's 300-page report, in addition to probing systemic issues surrounding policing during the summit, produced some findings of possible misconduct against some individual officers.
About two dozen complaints forwarded by McNeilly would likely go to a police tribunal hearing, Blair said Wednesday, adding most of the 19,000 officers on the streets that weekend acted "appropriately."
"I am quite prepared to hold people accountable for misconduct, if misconduct is proven on the basis of evidence, given before the tribunal," Blair said.
Tribunals part of process
When asked why there is a need for further tribunals when the OIPRD has already has gathered evidence of misconduct by certain officers, McNeilly said there is a process in place that has to be followed to ensure all involved parties get a fair shake.
"Those matters I have directed to the chief to take to a hearing. Those matters will follow through and it's my view that the officers and the complainants will be given an opportunity to make further representation at those hearings," adding he believes justice is being seen to be done.
McNeilly's report also says police were unprepared for the scale of the event and criticized the temporary detention centre set up by Toronto police for its poor planning, design and operation that saw people detained illegally.
But he concludes that police had legitimate concerns and faced challenges tracking “black bloc” vandals intent on violence and criminal activity as they hid within crowds of peaceful demonstrators.
The summit was marred by vandals who smashed windows and set police cruisers on fire as well as by arrests of more than 1,100 people, most to be released without charge.
McNeilly said his arm's-length civilian agency decided to combine a total of 356 complaints related to the G20.
The agency deemed 107 of the complaints substantiated — 96 of them "serious."
The OIPDR makes 15 general conclusions, and 42 recommendations after reviewing tens of thousands of documents, videos, police documents and interviews with police and protesters from across Canada.
Blair declined to be interviewed by Metro Morning on Thursday.
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