Nearly 100 Toronto officers to be “disciplined” over G20 summit conduct
(GLOBE AND MAIL) Nearly 100 Toronto police officers will be disciplined for removing their name tags at the G20 summit, says the city’s police chief who also admitted charges were thrown out against roughly 100 people because the force failed to obtain appropriate arrest warrants.
Police Chief Bill Blair was called before the Commons public safety committee on Wednesday to explain his officers’ actions during the June summit which resulted in the arrest of more than 1,000 people.
Many of the people who confronted police over the tumultuous three-days of protests that closed down Toronto’s core said officers were not wearing badge numbers or name tags on their uniforms – allegations that were bolstered by photographs in the media.
“I have a rule in the Toronto Police Service, it’s my rule, it’s in accordance with the policy of my police services board, that our officers will wear their names displayed on their uniforms,” Chief Blair told the committee.
Faced with numerous complaints, the force launched an investigation and pored over 22,000 hours of closed-circuit videotape to identify “approximately 90” officers who were not wearing their name tags, said the Chief.
“Disciplinary processes have been initiated,” he said. When asked what kind of punishment would be handed out, Chief Blair said that has yet to be determined “but the discussion, I believe, is the loss of a day’s pay.” That would amount to about $300 for a first-class constable.
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said no G20-related disciplinary action has yet been taken.
“That’s currently being investigated right now, so discipline hasn’t been handed out ,” he said. “I’m aware that some of our officers – I can’t confirm the number – have been notified of an investigation in regards to the name-tag issue, so the officers are in the process of responding to that right now.”
When asked why an officer would remove his or her badge, the Chief said some of the name tags could have come off during scuffles with protesters but other officers were likely trying to hide their identities.
The chief spent the better part of two hours before the committee defending his officers’ actions to opposition MPs who said they have heard repeated stories from protesters who say they were treated inhumanely while in police custody.
One of them, a Quebec student named Kevin Gagnon, appeared before the committee at the same time as Chief Blair. He said he was among a group of about 100 protesters who were roused from their sleep in a University of Toronto gymnasium and hauled off to a makeshift detention centre.
Mr. Gagnon told a harrowing tale of being held for more than 60 hours. He said he was denied adequate food and water. The toilet, he said, was in the open and there was no toilet paper.
Those who were arrested sat handcuffed without access to a lawyer for more than 30 hours, said Mr. Gagnon, adding that police taunted them as they shivered through the night without blankets. And later, at a detention centre, there were strip searches, he said.
In the end, the charges against Mr. Gagnon were thrown out just as they were against all of the students arrested at the gymnasium.
“There were reasonable and probable grounds,” to make the arrests, said Chief Blair.
But “a decision was subsequently made for reasons I do not question, by a Crown attorney not to proceed with those charges …. It was because the police did not have the appropriate warrant for the apprehension of those individuals.”
The raid, one of the weekend’s largest, resulted in 70 people being arrested for wielding “street-type weaponry,” police said. Officers seized black clothing, bricks, bats, sharpened sticks and bottles containing fluid – “items you don’t need for a weekend in Toronto,” Constable Rob McDonald said at the time. About 50 of those people were from a Quebec group called Anti-Capitalist Convergence, which later accused police of profiling anyone from the province.
The police raid on the University of Toronto building near the corner of Russell Street and Spadina Avenue was one of several pre-emptive police raids over the weekend – an attempt by police to head off further riotous protests Sunday after the Black Bloc violence of the day before.
In addition to the Toronto Police Services’ internal review, the Toronto Police Services Board has commissioned its own independent review led by John Morden – a former Associate Chief Justice of Ontario; Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director is conducting a formal inquiry of policing over the weekend, and the provincial government has launched two reviews of the public works protection act after an order in council gave police added powers they misrepresented to the public over the weekend. The Special Investigations Unit, an arm’s-length police watchdog, is looking into five incidents of serious injury to civilians and involving police over the summit weekend.
Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie, who’s heading up one of two class actions related to the G20 (both are awaiting certification) said it’s encouraging to see police taking internal actions to discipline their own officers for not wearing badges. But the fact that obscured badges were so common at the high-profile event is a bad sign when it comes to police accountability.
“The entire system of police accountability turns in large measure on individuals who believe they have legitimate concerns having an ability to address those concerns with some certainty that if there was a problem the officer or officers involved will be held accountable,” he said. “If police or anyone in a position of authority has the ability to not disclose their identity, it raises a concern a series of concerns both for the individual involved but also on a broader, societal level.”