G20 report clears RCMP but raises questions over 'kettling'

The RCMP's watchdog says an investigation into the conduct of Mounties during the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario in 2010 has found they "on balance" did "a pretty good job" of policing, but offers new insight into the controversial police tactic of "kettling."

Recommendations include better note-taking and record-keeping practices

A protester sprawled on the ground looks back to see a line of police officers in riot gear during G20 demonstrations in Toronto in June 2010. In a report released Monday, the RCMP watchdog investigating the conduct of Mounties during the G8 and G20 summits in 2010 found they on balance did a pretty good job of policing. (Adrien Veczan/Canadian Press)

The RCMP's watchdog says an investigation into the conduct of Mounties during the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario in 2010 has found they "on balance" did "a pretty good job" of policing.

In an interview with CBC News, Ian McPhail, vice-chair and interim chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC), said despite media reports "which looked a little alarming," the RCMP protected foreign visitors and secured the summit areas.

Although the report covers RCMP conduct for both the G8 in Huntsville and the G20 in Toronto, the complaints focused on the G20.

"There were no credible threats against any foreign visitor and there was no security breach within their area of jurisdiction," said the watchdog.

The commission found the RCMP planning to be "robust and thorough," and found no indication that it was guided by anything other than "legitimate security concerns."

The commission also saw no indication that RCMP undercover agents or event monitors acted "inappropriately" or as "agents provocateurs."

RCMP involved in 'kettling' incident

The report does, however, shed new light on an incident in downtown Toronto on June 27, 2010, when Ontario and city police boxed in hundreds of people for hours in the rain.

The tactic is called "kettling," and according to McPhail, the RCMP were called in, and once they arrived on the scene, the commander in charge raised a number of questions about the strategy.

"He was concerned about the nature of 'kettling' because that's not RCMP policy," said McPhail, who explained that when it comes to crowd control, RCMP policy is to provide an exit.

But once on site, the RCMP was reporting to the Toronto Police Services, explained McPhail.

The report shows that the Ontario Provincial Police officer who was supposed to be in charge was nowhere to be found for two hours.

According to McPhail, that's when the RCMP started making arrests.

The commission found no information to suggest that RCMP members were engaged in the "unreasonable" use of force.

Mounties took 'inadequate' notes

The RCMP arrested five people during that incident, "two of whom turned out to be undercover Toronto police officers," said McPhail.

It's unclear what the Toronto officers did to get arrested because McPhail found there was no record-keeping for the reason of their arrest.

"There were inadequate notes taken," said McPhail, adding that the circumstances may have been "difficult," but in terms of a post-event review, they really are "necessary."

To that end, McPhail's top three recommendations have to do with better note-taking and record-keeping.

Further investigation results coming

The CPC is an independent agency created by Parliament to ensure complaints made by the public about the conduct of RCMP members are examined "fairly and impartially."

"We launched our investigation upon receipt of a formal request from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association," said McPhail.

McPhail said that in addition to the CCLA request, the agency received a total of 28 complaints about the 2010 summits. Of these:

  • 14 were terminated (found to be investigated elsewhere, deemed frivolous, or not necessary or reasonably practicable to be investigated).
  • Two were found to be outside the commission's jurisdiction.
  • 12 were investigated and deemed "unsupported."

The CPC only has jurisdiction to investigate the conduct of RCMP officers.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is investigating security planning and policing as they pertain to the actions of provincial and municipal police officers in Ontario, and has received nearly 300 individual complaints.

It is expected that Ontario's civilian police oversight body will release its report on all officers who worked the G8 and G20 summits soon.

An independent civilian review of the policing of the G20 called by the Toronto Police Services Board is ongoing.

The Ontario Special Investigations Unit also probed allegations of inappropriate conduct by Toronto police, causing injury to a person. Two officers were charged.

With files from CBC's Alison Crawford