Toronto police chief defends relationship with board after G20 report
Published Friday, June 29, 2012 8:46AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 29, 2012 2:15PM EDT
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said he has a strong and open relationship with the force’s civilian oversight agency, despite a scathing report that said a communication breakdown was in part responsible for the violence-marred G20 summit.
The report, released Friday, suggested the civilian agency responsible for overseeing Toronto police did not participate in establishing a strategy for monitoring police activity during the 2010 G20 summit riots.
It accused the Toronto Police Services Board of acting as a spectator to policing procedures at the summit, instead of working as an active director in how forces were to act.
Blair said the report contained a number of recommendations worth studying. But he said he has always maintained a strong relationship with the Toronto Police Services Board.
“The report makes some recommendations that we must take into consideration, lessons that we can learn,” Blair said at a press conference Friday.
“But at the same time, I have a more direct knowledge of how that relationship has worked over the past several years… and I can cite examples of where that relationship has been very effective in providing effecting civilian oversight.”
On Friday, TPSB Chair Alok Mukherjee admitted the agency made mistakes in the way it oversaw the G20 summit and vowed to apply the lessons they have learned.
"We acknowledge that mistakes were made," he told reporters. "We are committed to ensuring the lessons learned through this experience are applied in the future."
The 357-page report, authored by former justice John Morden, also said police put too much emphasis on securing the inner perimeter of where the G20 leaders were meeting during the downtown Toronto summit in June 2010.
Morden said the focus left police forces unable to cope with violence that broke out in Toronto streets, ultimately resulting in a heavy-handed response as police attempted to regain control of the chaotic situation.
Mass arrests, violence
More than 1,100 people were arrested over the course of the summit, as vandalism and rioting broke loose across the downtown core.
The report took a specific focus on the role of the Toronto Police Services Board and said the civilian oversight group did not live up to its responsibilities of watching over the force’s activities.
“The board is responsible for setting the Toronto Police Service’ objectives and priorities, and giving the police a policy framework in which law enforcement actions are carried out,” Morden said.
“Civilian oversight of our police is essential and acts as a check and balance against the legal powers society has given police to enforce the law.
“For the police to be effective in our communities the public must have respect for those who perform a policing function.”
Morden said the board did not question Blair about his plans for the summit, wrongly believing it had no authority to seek information, and remained in the dark on some key aspects on policing strategy during the G20 summit.
He also said the board played no role in setting priority and therefore did not understand the command structure police used on the ground.
Morden made 38 recommendations in his report, noting that police training was inadequate when it came to understanding the execution of arrest powers and Charter rights.
The review, commissioned by the board, said the federal government failed to give police adequate time to prepare for the G20 summit, the largest security operation in Canadian history.
While the Toronto Police Service was given four months to prepare, Morden found that two years would have been more appropriate.
"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," the report notes.
Blair agreed with Morden’s assessment on the role the lack of preparation time played, and said the same issue affected the board’s abilites to ready itself for the summit.
“They were also facing the same very significant time constraints. That certainly had an impact,” he said.
The Morden report comes several weeks after the Office of the Independent Police Review Director – Ontario’s independent police watchdog – released its own report suggesting that officers violated civil rights and detained people illegally.