POLITICS

Toronto Police Services Board Admits To Mistakes Over Toronto G20 Police Conduct

06/28/2012 05:24 EDT | Updated 08/28/2012 05:12 EDT
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Commenting on a new review critical of the agency's role, the head of the Toronto Police Services Board said the report's 38 recommendations would now be reviewed with the aim of improving oversight of policing.

"We acknowledge that mistakes were made,'' Alok Mukherjee said.

"We are committed to ensuring the lessons learned through this experience are applied in the future.''

Mukherjee's remarks followed the formal release of a report by retired justice John Morden, who criticized the police board for its passive stance in the lead-up to the summit.

Effectively, Morden said, the board simply failed to live up to its responsibilities.

Among other things, the board misinterpreted its legal rights by failing to ask questions of Chief Bill Blair and obtain the information it needed to fulfil its role.

"This is the essence of civilian oversight: the exchange of information, insights, concerns, analyses on the policing issue at hand,'' Morden said.

"No arbitrary limit can be placed on the matters that can properly be discussed.''

Morden does have some sympathy with the board, given that the federal government gave city police only a scant four months to prepare for the massive security operation when two years would have been more appropriate.

His board-commissioned report, which runs to 357 pages plus appendices, also faults Ottawa for its failure to communicate, leaving the agency entirely dependent on others for information.

"As the entities that would bear the brunt of the policing and security for the G20 summit, the board and the Toronto Police Service should not have been excluded from the federal government's decision-making with regard to the event,'' Morden writes.

"The hallmarks one would expect to see in putting together a major international security event _deliberation, co-operation, and sufficient time to plan _ were absent.''

Still, the board fell short in keeping a proper eye on city police, who initially deployed too many resources to the inner security zone, creating a ``vacuum'' in much of the downtown where vandals went on a rampage, Morden concludes.

The board also had no idea of gaps in the policing command-and-control structure in place for the summit that caused confusion and delay in the deployment of officers at critical times, Morden said.

Poor crowd management ``led to a heavy-handed response'' in dealing with the vandalism that erupted that weekend.

Nor did the board provide any oversight of the temporary detention centre set up for the summit where hundreds of people were held.

The summit was marred by vandalism and the arrest of more than 1,100 people, among the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.

Morden said police training was inadequate both on a practical level as well as when it came to the exercise of powers such as arrest and charter rights related to mass public demonstrations.

His review comes weeks after Ontario's independent police watchdog blasted police for violating civil rights, detaining people illegally and using excessive force.

A similar review of the RCMP, who had little to do with policing the large protests, concluded the Mounties behaved reasonably.

However, there has been no public review to date of the role played by the federal government in the G20 fiasco.

Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said she could not comment on the actions of provincial or local authorities, but noted the RCMP were found blameless.

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