G20 overwhelmed Toronto police: report

Toronto police were overwhelmed and underprepared at times for protests that occurred during last year's G20 summit, according to an internal report.

Toronto police were overwhelmed and underprepared at times for protests that occurred during last year's G20 summit, according to an internal report.

The report reviews the actions of Toronto police during the June 26-27, 2010, summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in downtown Toronto and the preparations leading up to it.

The report said police were able to avoid any "critical injuries or deaths," but outlined deficiencies in a number of areas related to managing protests on June 26-27, including:

  • Interpretation of law.
  • Communication.
  • Organization.
  • Processing the hundreds who were detained after the protests.

The report also makes clear the division of labour among different levels of police when it came to summit security.

Toronto Police G20 Report

Read the Toronto Police internal report on its actions during the G20 Summit

The report reveals the Toronto police service was the body responsible for safety and security in areas outside the three-metre high fence that encircled the summit site. The RCMP had the lead role in security planning, operations and co-ordinating law enforcement agencies at different levels.

The RCMP was also the primary body in charge of providing security to foreign dignitaries and policing within the security zones.

The five-metre rule

One of the problems faced by police was the interpretation of the Public Works Protection Act. The province had designated the G20 summit zone a "public work," which gave police additional powers of search and arrest.

Key numbers

  • 1,118 arrested during summit.
  • 885 processed at Eastern Avenue holding centre.
  • 286 OIPRD complaints.
  • 39 people reported injuries during arrest.
  • 97 police officers reported injuries.
  • 0 critical injuries or deaths.

Police initially interpreted that rule to mean they could search anyone within five metres of the security fence.

But one day before the summit began, lawyers for the Integrated Security Unit — the RCMP-led body co-ordinating summit security — told police that their expanded powers only applied to areas within the security fence. That information was given to officers, but was not communicated to the public, the report said.

There were reports that officers stopped people in the leadup to the G20 and during the summit weekend — often in areas nowhere near the G20 zone — demanding identification and to search bags and backpacks.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said after the summit he knew there was no such thing as a five-metre rule, but said he was " trying to keep the criminals out."

June 26 protests

When the summit actually began at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on June 26, there were violent scenes on downtown streets as police cars were set on fire and several storefronts trashed.

The police report said much of that carnage was caused by those employing so-called Black Bloc tactics, where people use black clothing to disguise themselves while they vandalize property or confront authorities, only to slip quickly out of the clothing later and blend into crowds.

Police were essentially not able to keep up, the report concludes.

"In particular, there was an inability to effectively prevent, mitigate and respond to Black Bloc tactics employed within the broader theatre when mass disorder was taking place," the report says.

There were also "large numbers" of officers who did not possess the appropriate equipment in order to safely deal with violent protesters, according to the report.

The Toronto police central command decided to "use tactical engagement as the safest option for both the officers and the demonstrators at large," the report said.

Moreover, the police had gathered useful intelligence pertaining to the protests, but were unable to get it to the officers on the ground who needed it in a timely manner.

Much of the information that was gathered was hampered by federal red tape, the report said.

Kettling and containment

Police tactics on the following day have also come under heavy scrutiny, particularly the use of the "kettling" tactic, where about 500 people were hemmed in by hundreds of riot police at the intersection of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue for several hours in the pouring rain the evening of Sunday, June 27.

At 5:26 p.m. on Sunday, field commanders on the ground told police central command — the Major Incident Command Centre — that a protest at Queen and Spadina was growing and they were concerned the crowd might move south toward the fence.

At 5:47 p.m., the MICC advised police to completely box in the people at the intersection and begin arrests.

Six minutes after the arrest order was made, the MICC told officers on the ground that "conspiracy to commit mischief would be the charge for the arrests to come."

Some elderly people were allowed to leave the area by around 7:20 p.m.

At 9:38 p.m., Chief Blair ordered the last of those still in the intersection to be released.

The report said people not involved in the protest should have been allowed the opportunity to leave.

Eastern Avenue detention centre

The report details significant shortcomings in how the hundreds who were arrested were detained and processed at the detention centre on Eastern Avenue.

Of the 1,118 people arrested, 885 were processed at the detention centre. Many complained of having to wait for hours in cramped holding cells before being processed or being given access to a lawyer.

Police said that much of the backlog was due to the fact that only one court services processing officer was at the detention centre on Saturday night. About 450 people were brought to the detention centre overnight, overwhelming the officer.

Some had to wait up to 24 hours to even be processed, the report said.

A second court officer was brought in early Sunday to help, but that did little to address the booking bottleneck.

That forced people to wait several hours before getting access to one of 12 telephone booths.

The report concludes by saying that other host cities of previous summits were given two years to prepare, while Toronto police had just six months to prepare.

That short notice, the report said, was partially responsible for some of the issues, particularly when it came to planning the event.

"This report takes a hard look at what happened. Many things we did very well. Some things we did not," said Chief Blair in a written prelude to the report.

"I am confident we can work effectively with those members of our communities who are committed to an evidence-based examination of the summit events of last June."