Thursday, May 17, 2012

The #G20 Office of the Independent Police Review Director report

The National's report above is a good overview of yesterday's release of the G20 report by Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review. You can read it here and while it is lengthy, the executive summary and ensuing recommendations are not a very taxing read. It is a tale of incompetence in so many respects.

Here are some of the excerpts that stood out from the report.

There are the night shift Incident Commander's comments on the Saturday night of the weekend:
"The night shift Incident Commander said Deputy Police Chief Warr told him that he wanted him to take back the streets. “I understood his instructions to mean that he wanted me to make the streets of Toronto safe again,” he explained. “He wanted the streets that had been made unsafe by the terrorists that were attacking our city to be made safe again by restoring order.” When the night shift Incident Commander took over Incident Command, he immediately informed command staff that they were going to take steps to restore order and that the process might involve mass arrests.
It was too late at that point, the Black Bloc had done their damage and this "terrorists" language indicates the panic that had set in. That language also suggested a police mindset that escalated the situation against citizens who didn't deserve it:
This attitude resulted in the decision to contain and arrest approximately 1,100 people during the summit, most of whom were peaceful protesters.
There's more from the same person on why there were mass arrests of about 260 persons at the Esplanade location that night:
The night shift Incident Commander explained that he ordered the crowd to be boxed in and arrested because, as he said, “I wasn’t able to box in Queen’s Park, so the mobility was there and, again, highlighted my concern and the need for this boxing in.” He said he did not disperse the crowd because he needed to isolate the protesters and arrest them. They were in a “riot situation,” and he had to break with normal TPS procedures, “to go outside the box,” and not disperse the crowd.
That is an incomprehensible rationale. Was the Saturday night shift Incident Commander the same one who is referred to as "maniacal" by an officer on the ground at the Sunday Queen & Spadina kettling ("In an audio recording, one police officer on the line can be heard saying, “He’s maniacal this MICC, he’s maniacal.”)? Are these individuals going to be held accountable?

There are the completely wrong and unconstitutional stop and search orders police believed they had that weekend:
Many police officers believed they were obeying orders in stopping and searching people arbitrarily.
The officers told the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) that they were ordered to investigate anyone who was carrying a backpack and anyone who was wearing a disguise – gas masks, balaclavas, bandanas.
Many police officers ignored the basic rights citizens have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, by stopping and searching people arbitrarily, they overstepped their authority. Wearing bandanas and carrying heavy backpacks are not reasonable grounds to stop and search, and police should have used much more discretion.
There is the description of the Prisoner Processing Centre nightmare:
The Prisoner Processing Centre was poorly planned, designed, and operated. This detention facility was not operationally prepared for the mass arrests that took place on the Saturday night and on Sunday, leading to gross violations of prisoner rights, including detaining breach-of-peace arrestees for over 24 hours and with no access to a lawyer or a justice of the peace. In some cases the decision to detain those on a breach of the peace for more than 24 hours was ordered by the Superintendent in charge of the facility.
Even more disturbing, the lack of appropriate paperwork resulted at the PPC in several violations of human rights, including unlawful detention and arrest, no access to prescription medication or medical attention, and little or no access to food and water.
To boot, the poor paperwork meant that there is no exact figure of how many were arrested on G20 weekend. The OIPRD puts the number at 1,140.

There are a number of good recommendations, including:

10: that names and badge numbers of police officers be prominently displayed at all times on their clothing/equipment;

12: officer training in relation to large protests should include "a clear understanding of parameters of a legal protest and the rights of protesters";

15: officers should get refresher training in those legal parameters;

16: those who run the "Incident Command" systems should be well trained in doing so;

22: on the "kettling" or containment of protesters, police should be given discretion on the ground to permit access and exit from the area;

23: there has to be a connection between those being contained and a containment;

26: the Police Services Act and Code of Conduct should be amended to include a new offence expanding the "unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority" to include an unlawful or excessive detention where no physical force was used.

The calls for accountability need to be heeded. Chief Blair seemed to acknowledge that when he was reacting yesterday to the report:
"“I am quite prepared to hold people accountable,” he said. “If there is misconduct, we’ll deal with that.”

Blair said he accepts the recommendations made by Gerry McNeilly of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
But given the contents of this report, the Toronto Police Services Board needs to be heard from on accountability as well, including with respect to Chief Blair. It is not clear at all why he should be exempted.

This was the largest mass arrest incident in Canadian history. You cannot roll along and simply vow that procedures will change for next time. There needs to be accountability and that needs to mean something real.