Tuesday, May 29, 2012

G-20 Police excoriated in report

About two years ago, the city of Toronto was host of a G-20 summit meeting of international leaders.  Police were tasked with protecting the glitterati of the global elite from protesters, malcontents, and violent anarchists bent on confrontation.  As far as most Canadians were concerned the entire event was a fiasco.  More than a billion dollars was spent on law enforcement, the entire city was shutdown at the beginning of the tourist season, hundreds of ordinary citizens, protesters, and journalists were harassed, brutally attacked by law enforcement, and subsequently jailed.

Numerous stories of police malfeasance and unconstitutional actions by the state against lawful citizens were reported in the media.

Over the past month a series of reports on police conduct during the G-20 meeting have been released.  The first report issued by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) found that it saw no indication that the RCMP acted "inappropriately" or as "agents provocateurs."  This report however, was only concerned with actions associated directly with the RCMP, Canada's national police force, and not with the nebulous complaints and behavior of the entire security apparatus on display that week.  The report did fault the RCMP in participating in the inappropriate "kettling" of protesters and ordinary citizens.  The process of "kettling" is a means in which police eliminate all egress routes for persons, as is portrayed in the picture above, and then extract detainees on a singular basis.  The sophistication of the mass arrests was also subject to ridicule in a specific instance where the RCMP arrested five persons, "two of whom turned out to be undercover Toronto police officers".

The second report that came out shortly after, by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), was scathing in its denunciation of police misconduct. The report found that the planning for the event was poorly conceptualized and concluded that:
many of the arrests of peaceful demonstrators were illegal — without proper warrants or reasonable grounds — and that the conditions and treatment of prisoners inside a makeshift detention centre were "improper and unnecessary"
The report expounds the fact the some officers deliberately ignored the Charter rights of citizens, used excessive force, and took “unreasonable, unnecessary and unlawful” actions against the same people they took an oath to protect and serve.

During the period of June 25 and June 27, police stop-and-search exercises in downtown Toronto increased exponentially.  The report determined that the police had overstepped their authority.  In an example of the latter, a metro Toronto transit worker was assaulted as he was on his way to work, arrested, and detained for 29 hours.  Mr. Elroy Yau is currently seeking "over $3 million, claiming his charter rights were violated during the G20 summit."

In another incident, which I discussed in my original blog on this topic, two Toronto police sergeants face disciplinary hearings after they were found to have illegally arrested journalists during the G-20 summit and engaged in a homophobic tirade.
In the case of [Ryan] Mitchell, the review found that the officers used excessive force in his arrest. But it couldn't substantiate Mitchell's allegation that during his arrest, an officer said: "I'm going to love shoving this baton up your ass."
The Toronto Star newspaper elaborates on the incident.
It also found [Sgt. Douglas] Rose and another officer, Sgt. Michael Ferry, unlawfully arrested [Lisa] Walter and her colleague, Ryan Mitchell, on the afternoon of the final day of the G20 summit. And that both officers used “unnecessary force” when arresting Mitchell, who said he was tackled to the ground and put into a headlock, his right arm twisted behind his back.
Video footage shot by bystanders contradicts the police officer's statements, where they claim that they arrested Mitchell for breach of the peace and that Mitchell was "struggling quite violently".

In the case of the second journalist, Lisa Walter, the review said there was insufficient evidence to substantiate that excessive force was used against her.  However, it did conclude that arresting officer Sgt. Rose was involved in "discreditable conduct" for using "profane, abusive or insulting language" regarding her sexuality.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was initially chastised in the editorial pages of Canadian newspapers for failing to accept the results of the OIPRD report.  The Globe and Mail stated that:
Police Chief Bill Blair has not apologized for his own failings and those of the officers under his command... Mr. Blair’s response, a grudging concession that things could have been handled better, is a surprising miscalculation. He needed to show he is in command. His attempt to soft-pedal the findings will not succeed in dampening criticism of police actions, or the calls for heads to roll. On the contrary, it will raise pressure on Mr. Blair and the Toronto Police Service, because it suggests they have learned little over the past two years.
In response to public outrage to the report's findings, Chief Blair took the "unusual step of appointing retired judges and former Crown attorneys to run the hearings, which are usually adjudicated by a fellow officer, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest."

In the end, none of this had to happen if Prime Minster Harper hadn't prematurely decided to force upon Toronto this unnecessary, ill planned, and useless publicity stunt.  We the public are equally left bewildered towards Minster Tony Clement, who was found in an auditor general's report to be in clear breach of federal policies on accountability in the G-8/G-20 boondoggle.  Why is it that millions -and in this case over a billion dollars- can be found to be used for Ministerial photo-ops, but actual infrastructure spending on subways, new transit lines, highway repairs, and sewer upgrades, all of which the city needs, is disregarded and mocked by the Conservative "law and order" politicians we have today?

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