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Police oversight body failed in its responsibilities over G20 summit: report

File photo of police presence during the G20 summit in Toronto, Ont., in 2011

TORONTO, Ont. – The civilian agency responsible for overseeing Toronto’s police force failed to live up to its responsibilities when it came to policing the violence-marred G20 summit, partly because Ottawa failed to communicate properly, a new report concludes.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair and Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee will both respond to the report’s findings at 10 a.m. Friday.

The independent review by former justice John Morden criticizes the Toronto Police Services Board for finding itself largely in the dark when it came to G20 policing, and, as a result, ended up acting more as a spectator than showing leadership.

The board-commissioned review, which runs to 357-pages plus appendices, notes the federal government gave police just four months to plan for what was “the largest security operation in Canadian history” when two years would have been more appropriate.

In addition, the board “depended entirely” on others for the information it needed to plan given that the federal government passed details and requirements to the RCMP and then to Toronto police.

“As the entities that would bear the brunt of the policing and security for the G20 summit, the board and the Toronto Police Service should not have been excluded from the federal government’s decision-making with regard to the event,” Morden writes.

“The hallmarks one would expect to see in putting together a major international security event — deliberation, co-operation, and sufficient time to plan — were absent.”

At the same time, Morden faults the board for failing to ask enough questions of the Chief Bill Blair, wrongly believing it had no authority to seek information on operational matters.

Some members of the board blamed Blair for being secretive, but the report says that didn’t relieve them of their responsibilities.

The summit in June 2010 was marred by vandalism and the arrest of more than 1,100 people.

Morden, who makes 38 recommendations, found police placed too much emphasis on the inner security zone where the G20 leaders were meeting at the expense of the rest of the city.

“This allocation of resources left the Toronto Police Service unable to manage effectively the violence and property damage that unfolded in the city,” the report states.

The poor crowd management in turn “led to a heavy-handed response” in dealing with the vandalism that ensued that weekend.

It was also not clear at times who was in charge of police operations, leading to confusion at all levels, the report states.

“The more complex a police operation is the more essential it is that all of the police services involved have a clear understanding of the scope of their authority,” the report states.

Morden’s report was to be released Friday, but was made public early after it was inadvertently posted to the police services board website.

A police spokesman said Blair would only comment after it’s formal release on Friday.

Morden’s review comes weeks after Ontario’s independent police watchdog — the Office of the Independent Police Review Director — blasted policing of the summit.

That report found officers violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force.

The review director, Gerald McNeilly, recommended charges be laid against dozens of frontline officers as well as several senior officers.

In his report, Morden said police training was inadequate both on a practical level as well as when it came to the exercise of powers such as arrest and the Charter rights related to mass public demonstrations.

“There should have been a greater emphasis in training on the police officers’ responsibility to protect and facilitate the public’s exercise of their fundamental rights,” the report states.

Morden also found police training materials created the impression that all protesters at the summit would engage in destructive activity and that officers needed to respond aggressively.

A similar review of the G20 by the RCMP, who had little to do with the large protests away from the summit area, concluded the Mounties behaved reasonably.

Several civil lawsuits against police are pending, while some have already been settled.

Julian Falconer, a lawyer who defended a number of people beaten during the G20 summit told 680News the report needs to be studied.

“Accountability is all about people stepping up and I think it’s very important that this board clean house. It’s very important that Justice Morden’s report be studied carefully, I certainly haven’t looked at the complete report. And then once that’s happened, that we take important steps and go forward,” Falconer said.

Falconer said that the blame goes higher than Chief Blair.

“This report, regrettably, is just a testament to incompetence. It goes far deeper than simply incident based. What this report says is this was a board under Chair Mukherjee’s leadership. This was a board that simply didn’t understand its job,” said Falconer.

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