Toronto police chief excuses himself from G20 tribunals
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has excused himself from upcoming tribunal hearings for police officers charged with mistreating the public during the G20 summit.
Blair released a statement Friday afternoon accepting responsibility for the actions of those officers involved and vowing to restore the public's confidence in the Toronto Police Service.
At the present time, four senior officers and 28 regular officers face charges under the Police Services Act for their alleged misconduct during the June 2010 summit, police Chief Bill Blair told reporters Friday.
Of those senior officers, two are still serving with the Toronto police, Blair said. The two who have retired can not be charged under the Police Services Act.
Blair said there may be more charges coming, depending on what Gerry McNeilly, head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, decides.
The charges come after McNeilly released a scathing report Wednesday, which found officers conducted unlawful arrests and used unnecessary force when dealing with the public.
Blair said he would hold officers accountable for their actions if they were found guilty of misconduct during the police tribunal hearings.
"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, and to seek the services of a former Crown Attorney to prosecute these cases," Blair said in a statement.
"These hearings will be conducted in public and the results made public at the conclusion of the proceedings."
Blair went on to say that the G20 summit represented an "unprecedented" challenge for Toronto police. He said that McNeilly's report found that the vast majority of officers conducted themselves professionally during the event.
The names of eight officers charged in relation to events on the Saturday and Sunday of the G20 have already been released.
When asked, Blair told reporters that he was not directly in charge of officers on the Saturday of the event, when a group of protestors turned a march along Queen Street West violent, smashing shop windows, clashing with police and burning police cruisers.
"I am the chief of police and I was the chief of police that day, as I am today, but there were operational commands being given by people in the major incident command centre and by senior officers and supervisors out on the road," Blair said.
The report from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director found that some police overstepped their authority, unlawfully detained protestors and violated basic civil rights.
The report was also critical of the level of force used by officers as they tried to control crowds.
"We did our best to protect the people of Toronto and our city from the violence and destruction that this event brought. We also attempted to facilitate lawful, peaceful protest and maintain the security of the Summit site," Blair said, acknowledging that there were also shortcomings that needed to be addressed.
The police tribunal hearings will be open to the public, the first of which will be held on the second floor of Toronto Police Headquarters on Tuesday, June 19 at 9 a.m.
Toronto Coun. Adam Vaughan, who is a past member of the Toronto Police Services Board and whose downtown riding was the site of many of the protests, told CTV News that the charges are not unexpected.
"I think the police chief, the police service board, myself included, all played a role in this," Vaughan said on Thursday. "I think we need to have public accounting and, where necessary, be brought before courts of justice, or disciplinary action, where we failed to protect the public and the city."
Toronto police released the names and charges of eight officers on Thursday.
- Const. Vincent Wong, Unlawful arrest of "J.W." (Sunday, June 27, 10 a.m. at Yonge Street and Gerrard Avenue)
- Const. Blair Begbie, Unlawful arrest of "J.W." (June 27, 10 a.m. at Yonge Street and Gerrard Avenue)
- Const. Alan Li, Unlawful arrest of "A.S." (June 27, 4 p.m., Bloor Street West and Huron Street)
- Const. Donald Stratton, Unlawful arrest of "A.S." (June 27, Bloor Street West and Huron Street)
- Const. Michael Kirpoff, Unnecessary force on prisoner "J.M." (June 27, Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue)
- Const. Ryan Simpson, Unlawful arrest of cyclist "N.W." (June 27, Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue)
- Const. Jason Crawford, Unlawful arrest of "N.W." (June 27)
- Const. Michael Martinez ,Unnecessary force on prisoner "J.R." (Saturday, June 26, Novotel Hotel)
If the officers in question are found guilty, discipline could range from docked hours to dismissal.