A handful of senior Toronto police commanders will likely face disciplinary charges for their roles in the crackdown on protesters at the G20 summit two years ago, the first concrete sign top brass will be held responsible for allegations of abuse of power levelled at the force.
The revelation came a day after a provincial report revealed for the first time which high-ranking officers ordered the use of controversial tactics at the summit.
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a provincial agency, investigated 207 complaints and ordered disciplinary charges in 107 of them. Ninety-six of these were deemed to be serious. In those cases, the civilian board that oversees the force must review the cases before they can proceed to a tribunal.
On Thursday, the police review office said that it has recommended disciplinary tribunals for some senior officers of the Toronto Police Service.
The agency has not yet formally referred the cases against the senior officers to the board, said chair Alok Mukherjee, but added that he understands they concern fewer than six commanders.
While the implication that policing problems at the G20 went beyond overzealous front-line officers “would be a concern,” Dr. Mukherjee said, he cautioned that the disciplinary process is still in the early stages.
“The allegations have to be proven with evidence,” he said. “It would be premature to form any conclusions.”
The names of the officers have not been released.
In a detailed chronology of key moments during the protests, the police review office criticized commanders, most notably Superintendent Mark Fenton. The veteran officer was in charge at the major incident command centre, the central node for directing operations on the streets, during the evenings and nights of the protests.
In total, the report says, he directed police to box in protesters at least 10 different times over the weekend, including at Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue, where a kettled crowd was kept standing in the pouring rain.
Supt. Fenton made decisions personally, usurping on-site commanders, and moved units around at will, the report said, adding that the MICC became “dysfunctional” and communications broke down.
In an e-mail on Thursday, Supt. Fenton’s lawyer said his client will not comment on the report. “My understanding is [the agency is]not recommending charges but leaving that to the TPS,” wrote Peter Brauti.
In addition to the high-ranking commanders, the OIPRD has ordered charges against more than 25 rank-and-file Toronto Police officers; eight have so far been approved by the board and will next appear before a disciplinary tribunal on June 19.
The eight constables – Vincent Wong, Blair Begbie, Alan Li, Donald Stratton, Michael Kirpoff, Ryan Simpson, Jason Crawford and Michael Martinez – are accused of various misconducts during the summit. Constable Wong and Constable Begbie, for instance, are alleged to have illegally arrested a man who was on his way to church because he was wearing a bandanna.
Their union tried to have the charges stopped, arguing the investigations against them had taken too long. The courts rejected that argument this week.
Union president Mike McCormack said his organization would not go to court to try to have charges against other officers quashed, but defended their conduct.
“We had thousands and thousands of officers out for three days facing the most horrendous of conditions,” he said. “When I look at the amount of incidents, I don’t think that says anything but that our officers did a great job.”