POLITICS

Ex-judge to hear G20 police misconduct charges; ex-Crown to prosecute

05/18/2012 02:45 EDT | Updated 07/18/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - A retired judge will hear misconduct charges levelled against dozens of Toronto police officers arising out of the tumultuous G20 summit two years ago, Chief Bill Blair announced Friday.

Blair's decision follows intense pressure for "real accountability" sparked by a scathing review of summit policing by Ontario's independent police watchdog.

"Given the extraordinary public interest in these important matters, and to provide public assurance, I intend to exercise my authority under the Police Services Act to delegate the authority to conduct the hearings to a retired judge," Blair said in a statement.

"(I will also) seek the services of a former Crown attorney to prosecute these cases."

Blair said the wide range of discreditable conduct charges include abuse of authority, excessive use of force and lack of civility.

On Wednesday, Gerry McNeilly of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, said the evidence in at least 107 citizen complaints was enough to warrant misconduct charges.

At least four of those relate to senior commanders, who gave orders during the June 2010 weekend that saw the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Two of those officers have since left the force.

The hearings will be conducted in public and the results made public.

McNeilly's 300-page report slammed police for wantonly trampling constitutional rights and using excess force.

He was harshly critical of the attitude of some senior officers — one of whom referred to crowds as "marauding terrorists" — and those in charge of the poorly planned and operated makeshift detention centre.

Those detained in the centre complained they were strip-searched, not allowed to talk to lawyers, denied food and water, and had to use the bathroom in full view of others.

In another case, according to the review, a senior officer — described as "maniacal" by subordinates — illegally ordered protesters to be "kettled" for hours in a torrential downpour and wanted everyone, passersby included, arrested.

Tommy Taylor, who was among 1,100 people detained that weekend, complained bitterly that despite the damning report — which noted most of the 19,000 officers on the streets conducted themselves appropriately — no one had been held accountable for the very real problems.

Blair again refused to apologize. He did say he was not directly in charge of events during the summit, and that he was not the subject of any of McNeilly's complaints.

McNeilly made 42 recommendations, all of which Blair said he accepted.

"We will act quickly to respond to those recommendations directed to us," he said.

"I fully acknowledge that there were things that were not done well. We have learned from these shortcomings."

Blair also noted none of the charges has been proven.

Penalties under the Police Services Act range from reprimand to dismissal. The act does not apply to those officers who are no longer with the force.