Toronto police chief seeks OK to charge G20 officers
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair has asked for permission to discipline 30 of his officers, including two senior officers, in the wake of a damning report on police actions during the G20 summit in 2010.
Blair met with the Police Services Board on Friday afternoon and requested permission to lay disciplinary charges against the officers. They include four senior officers but two will not face disciplinary action because they are retired and therefore outside of Blair’s jurisdiction.
"I have proposed to deal with those [officers] in a way which is — quite frankly —a little out of the normal the way these things are done, but which is well within the law," said Blair. "And I think we'll assure the public that these matters are being dealt with appropriately."
CBC News has learned that the province's police watchdog is preparing files against more than a dozen other officers in addition to the officers Blair spoke to the Police Services Board about on Friday.
Moving ahead with the disciplinary charges will first require approval of the Toronto Police Services Board because more than six months has passed since the actions under review.
Blair also said he will be bring in an outside judge and crown prosecutor to prosecute the cases.
The charges, which are not criminal, would be laid under the Police Services Act. Officers found guilty could face penalties ranging from having their pay docked to losing their jobs.
At the hearings, which will be made public and follow similar procedures to a court of law, the officers will be allowed to defend themselves against the allegations of misconduct.
Chief Blair's move comes just two days after the release of a 300-page report from the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), which investigated the actions of Toronto police during the weekend summit.
The OIPRD report on the actions of Toronto police during the G20 alleged systemic abuses of power along with individual accusations of excessive force.
Damning report at centre of disciplinary move
CBC News reported Friday that one of the senior officers facing charges is Supt. Mark Fenton, who supervised the "kettling" of protesters at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West during the June 2010 G20 summit.
Lucius Dechausay was among those caught up in the kettling. He told CBC News he wasn't protesting, but was simply trying to walk home when the kettling manoeuvre began. He and hundreds of others were held at the corner for hours in a downpour and not allowed to leave.
"No one would listen to anything I had to say," Dechausay told CBC News on Friday. "There were just telling us to move and pushing us closer and closer together."
Open letter to people of Toronto
In an open letter to the people of Toronto released Friday afternoon, Blair says the hearings will be open and presided over by independent officers of the court.
"Given the extraordinary public interest in these important matters, and to provide public assurance, I intend to exercise my authority under the Police Services Act to delegate the authority to conduct the hearings to a retired judge, and to seek the services of a former Crown attorney to prosecute these cases. These hearings will be conducted in public and the results made public at the conclusion of the proceedings," the letter says.
Blair was also asked if he planned to step down in the wake of the OIPRD investigation, but didn't answer directly.
"I always accept my responsibility for the Toronto Police Service," he said. "My job is to ensure that if there were deficiencies in response to the G20, that we deal with that appropriately. And if there are changes to be made in our training, in our procedures, our equipment, in our policies, then that will be done. And there's accountability."
Dechausay, however, feels that Blair should step down given the scope of police misconduct allegations stemming from the G20.
"It took that many complaints, that many YouTube videos, that many violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think it's too late, I think he absolutely needs to step down," he said.Blair said he personally takes responsibility for the actions of the police during the G20 and will remain in place to deal with them.