G20 police didn't have time to prepare: chief

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says deficiencies in how police handled protests during last year's G20 summit in Toronto caused in part by inadequate preparation time to properly train personnel.
An internal police report released on Thursday said 1,118 people were arrested during the G20 summit in Toronto. (Canadian Press)

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says deficiencies in how police handled protests during last year's G20 summit in Toronto caused in part by inadequate preparation time to properly train personnel.

Operational commanders arrived at the site just days before the June 26-27 event, he told CBC's Dwight Drummond in an interview. 

"We were putting things in place in a very short period of time," he said.

"I don't offer that as an excuse, but I think it's an important explanation as to why some things might not have worked as perfectly as we had hoped," he told CBC News.

His remarks came after police released an internal report that identified a number of deficiencies in how police handled the protests during the summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

G20 report

Download the Toronto police internal report on its actions during the G20 summit.

The report said other host cities of previous summits were given two years to prepare, while Toronto police had just six months to get ready.

Blair also addressed a finding that said police weren't ready for protesters who used Black Bloc tactics, in which people dress in black to disguise themselves while they vandalize property or confront authorities.

"It's very clear to me that those who had engaged in these Black Bloc tactics had studied and learned from the police response in public order situations," he said.

"And they've evolved their tactics in order to thwart those procedures that we normally follow."

Tactics too strong

Meanwhile, the head of Toronto police's union admitted the tactics used to deal with protesters at last year's G20 summit in Toronto may have been too strong at points.

Mike McCormack of the Toronto Police Association made the comments to CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.

"Yeah, I think that what happened is that we gear up … [where] we're at a level of preparedness that may have been over prepared for what we faced in some circumstances," he said when asked by host Matt Galloway if he thought police may have overreacted to protests in some cases.

McCormack didn't specify the nature of the circumstances to which he was referring.

"And the report has identified the level of preparedness or the level of tactics was a little what was above it should have been, in retrospect," he said.

McCormack brushed aside allegations of widespread police misconduct by critics.

The Special Investigations Unit and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, two provincial watchdogs tasked with police oversight, are investigating complaints of police actions, he said.

"We have these investigations, so we can look at those individual incidents in a more fulsome way," he said.

Lawyer unimpressed

But Julian Falconer, a lawyer who represents a number of people suing the police over their actions during the G20, said he doesn't believe officers are holding themselves accountable.

In particular, he criticized the police report for including few officers' names and not providing specifics about the police departments involved in the protests.

"We don't know who the officers in charge [are]. We don't know if it's [Chief] Bill Blair," he said.

Falconer also took issue with the report for not including any mention of the G20 review conducted by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin.

When he released the report, Marin called the law enforcement around the summit "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history," and said he received no co-operation from police as he conducted the review.

"When the police investigate themselves internally, there can be some good things you can glean from these things," Falconer said. "But you always have to appreciate that if there's bad news, it tends to be stepped around. The ombudsman's report is an example. It's not even mentioned — the absence of co-operation."

But McCormack said he doesn't believe the police are going easy on themselves.

"My first reading of this report seems to be that it's mostly bad news and criticism when you look at it, and it seems to be very reflective on the first read," he said.

The report released Thursday said 1,118 people were arrested during the summit.

Newly released figures by Ontario's attorney general show that of that number, only 317 were charged with G20-related offences.

Of those charged, 24 have pleaded guilty, and 187 have had their charges stayed, dismissed or withdrawn.