Toronto police to review G20 tactics

A Toronto police internal review is one of many mechanisms that will scrutinize law enforcement tactics during the weekend's violent G20 summit protests, the city's police chief says.

Police reveal 'weapons' seized from protesters

Toronto police displayed a number of items they say were seized from protesters during the G20 summit. But the chainsaw and the crossbow were taken in an arrest that police acknowledged had nothing to do with the summit. ((Colin Butler/CBC))
A Toronto police internal review is one of many mechanisms that will scrutinize law enforcement tactics during the weekend's violent G20 summit protests, the city's police chief says.

The Toronto Police Service's Summit Management After Action Review Team (SMAART) will "provide an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in the G20 plans, and their execution, to provide a model for improved best practices in future operations," police said in a release.

Police Chief Bill Blair, speaking at a Tuesday morning news conference, told reporters: "There is oversight and there [are] accountability processes for every single police officer who is deployed on our streets."

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He said the SMAART review will be submitted to the Integrated Security Unit — the umbrella law enforcement group that handled security during the summit and includes members of the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Toronto police — and to himself. Some officers from Quebec also helped police the protests.

Blair said the review will form "part of my report" to the city council's police services board.

"It's up to the board to then make a determination of what to do with that information, and I suspect at that time it will involve a public disclosure of the findings of the report.

More than 900 people were arrested during the protests over the weekend. Blair said he expects that almost 400 of those arrested "will be held accountable."

"Anyone wishing to make a complaint can do it in the prescribed form, either to the police in Toronto, the police of jurisdiction if they wish to make a complaint about a police officer from another jurisdiction, or to the office of the independent police review," said Blair.

Police display potential weapons

At the news conference, police displayed a number of implements seized from protesters they said could have been used as weapons. These included replica guns, bamboo stakes, a chain mail vest and a sledgehammer.

But among the items displayed was a crossbow and a chainsaw that were seized in an arrest unrelated to the summit.

"I don't believe that was related to the G20, so please everyone make the observation that the crossbow and the chainsaw are not related and everything else is," Blair said.

But the CBC's Colin Butler, reporting from the news conference, said many of the other items on display may have been seized during the same arrest.

Blair lambasted the so-called Black Bloc tactic used by some protesters, calling such people "terrorists" who conducted a well-coordinated campaign to "attack the city."

"They embraced a euphemism they call the diversity of tactics. That is their diversity of tactics," he said, pointing at the implements on display.

A man sticks his tongue out at a police officer after being arrested during a protest at the G20 summit in downtown Toronto on Sunday. ((Christinne Muschi/Reuters))

The Black Bloc strategy involves protesters using black clothing to disguise themselves while they vandalize property or confront authorities, only to slip quickly out of the clothing later while they blend into crowds.

But the Integrated Security Unit has faced fierce criticism from protesters, independent journalists and civil liberties groups.

Criticism was especially strong of police tactics on Sunday evening, in which 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.

Police acknowledged they changed tactics after Saturday's chaos, in which windows were smashed and some police cruisers set on fire, but they insist their methods were lawful.

Police board is 'ongoing public inquiry'

Amnesty International Canada has decried what it calls the heavy police presence around the protests and has called for a review of police procedures — albeit by an independent body, not internally.

Some protesters have also called for a public inquiry. A Facebook group lobbying for such a probe had almost 11,400 members Tuesday morning.

Blair did not address the issue of a possible public inquiry during the news conference. Alok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto police service board, told CBC's Metro Morning simply that "I'd want to hear from the chief first before we even talk about the need for a public inquiry."

The G20 summit was held in the downtown city ward represented by Coun. Adam Vaughan, who also sits on the Toronto police board in council.

Vaughan said he believes the SMAART study will be an operational review that will look into how the RCMP, the OPP and Toronto police worked together.

When asked if he thinks a formal review or a public inquiry is required, Vaughan said, "We have an ongoing public inquiry into the police. It's called the Toronto Police Services Board. And I'm confident that any complaints by individual or groups will be received and dealt with under our guidelines."