OTTAWA - The RCMP acted in a "reasonable and appropriate" fashion during the Toronto G20 summit marred by violence and mass arrests, says the watchdog that keeps an eye on the national police force.
In its long-awaited investigation report, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP says there were no incidents of unreasonable force by the Mounties.
It also found RCMP planning was thorough, placement of security fencing justifiable and intelligence-gathering done with attention to the rights of demonstrators.
In addition, there was no indication that RCMP undercover operators or event monitors acted out of line or as agents provocateurs, the commission says in its report released Monday.
G8 leaders gathered in scenic cottage country near Huntsville, Ont., in late June 2010 before joining other politicians for the G20 summit in downtown Toronto.
Municipal police officers were responsible for most of the front line street duties at the G20, but the RCMP was a key player in summit security planning, co-ordination and protection of foreign visitors.
Though Mounties were involved in three incidents of kettling — or boxing in — protesters, contrary to RCMP policy, they acted reasonably on orders of the Toronto police in charge, says the commission report.
Still, it recommends better co-ordination between the RCMP and other forces at future events, as well as clear operational guidelines to avoid any confusion.
"As you can appreciate, with thousands of members of the RCMP and other police services coming into Toronto for this event, that co-ordination is vital," said Ian McPhail, interim commission chairman.
"While we found that on balance it was well done, we certainly found that there was room for improvement," he said in an interview.
The complaints commission also recommends improved RCMP note-taking and record-keeping, as well as more rigorous control over sensitive criminal intelligence investigations related to major events.
The complaints commission investigation, which began in November 2010, is one of several, separate probes that looked at elements of policing and security at the summits.
The commission launched its public-interest probe of RCMP actions at the international meetings after receiving more than two dozen complaints about the Mounties' role, including one from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
In a statement Monday, the association said the report bolsters a number of concerns raised just after the G20, strengthens the call for answers about conduct of the Toronto police and underscores the continuing need for a comprehensive, federal-provincial inquiry with a broad mandate.
In its complaint, the civil liberties association said media, human rights monitors, protesters and passersby were scooped up off the streets during the G20 event.
More than 1,000 people were taken into custody — the largest mass arrest in Canadian history — while a small number of violent participants did considerable damage to shops and cars in Toronto.
Detained people were not allowed to speak to a lawyer or to their families, the civil liberties association maintained.
Arbitrary searches took place in numerous Toronto locations, peaceful protests were violently dispersed and, in an effort to locate and shut down radical Black Bloc activists, the police disregarded the constitutional rights of thousands, the group claimed.
The RCMP complaints commission report almost completely exonerates the Mounties.
It says the Mounties arrested a total of just seven people — two of them plainclothes Toronto officers.
It found the RCMP did not take part in arrests at Queen's Park, The Esplanade or the University of Toronto, nor was it involved in contentious incidents at detention and prisoner processing centres.
Mounties were involved on June 27 in three instances of kettling — a crowd control tactic in which demonstrators are surrounded by police to keep them penned in. According to RCMP policy and training, the report says, crowds should be given an exit route.
The commission concluded it is difficult for a supporting police agency — in this instance, the RCMP — to refuse to follow through in situations requiring quick and decisive action.
"While there may be legitimate questions surrounding the approach taken by the instructing agency, to act contrary to their instructions could jeopardize the safety of all involved."
McPhail is mindful that some might find the commission's conclusions incompatible with the chaotic images of the G20 summit etched into the minds of many Canadians.
"We're not trying to excuse anyone's activity, but we go where the evidence takes us," McPhail said. "And the evidence shows that RCMP involvement in G20 was well planned, it was successful in terms of its objectives."
The civil liberties association said the report raises concerns about police command procedures, adequacy of planning, undercover operations and the arrest of the two plainclothes officers.
"What were these officers doing that led the RCMP to single them out for arrest?" the association asked. "How are we to assess police assertions that crowds contained individuals posing as a security risk, when some of those identified as suspicious were themselves police officers?"
A report on the actions of provincial and municipal police officers at the G20 summit is expected soon from Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
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