A new report by retired judge John Morden concludes that the assignment of a single officer in that role created a “crippling bottleneck” that defeated the purpose of establishing the processing centre in the first place.
Morden’s independent report was commissioned by the Toronto Police Services Board in the aftermath of the G20 summit and was due to be released Friday.
The report was inadvertently published online and the link has since been taken down.
Morden’s report reviews a number of issues related to the planning that took place in advance of the G20 and the police actions that followed, but it devotes a lengthy chapter to issues surrounding the prisoner processing centre that was used on that weekend.
Police had anticipated that the G20 would leave them needing additional capacity to process arrests.
They leased a vacant film studio on Eastern Avenue so it could be used as a mass prisoner processing centre during the summit.
The plan was to have the capacity to book 500 prisoners over a 24-hour period, though the facility would be capable of holding more than 1,000 people at one time.
Experts not consulted on managing prisoners
The prisoner processing centre was “without precedent in Ontario and, as a mass detention facility, posed unique operational challenges that required expert planning,” the report says.
But members of the planning team failed to consult relevant and available experts about “prisoner care and management at a mass facility.”
Significant renovations were required to get the property ready. And while police were able to get the facility up and running in time for the summit, construction finished “only days before it began operations.”
When the facility was in operation, it was staffed largely by court services officers, who normally handle security and prisoner-care issues at court facilities.
For this reason, they “are not usually familiar with standard procedures followed by police officers.”
These officers underwent a brief training in advance of the G20, but the report says they were generally left with “almost no guidance” as to how to run the processing centre.
A court services superintendent made some last-minute changes to operations that included having a single officer book all incoming prisoners and dividing the facility into four separate zones under the supervision of separate individuals.
When the police started making arrests and bringing people in, a backlog began and a breakdown in prisoner care resulted.
The report says that the Toronto Police Services Board “had almost no involvement” in planning the prisoner processing centre, though it did receive informal briefings from Toronto police Chief Bill Blair.
The board did not take any further steps to obtain “detailed information” about the processing centre from the chief.
The report concludes that if the board had “engaged in a proper consultation” on the matter, “this may have helped to avoid some of the problems encountered during the G20 summit.”
Eight of the 38 recommendations Morden made in his report pertain to the prisoner processing centre.
They include having planning specialists and experts involved in the development of any similar centres in future, as well as the creation of board policy on mass detention.
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