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Police officers in riot gear at Queen's Park in Toronto on Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Roger Hallett/The Globe and Mail)
Police officers in riot gear at Queen's Park in Toronto on Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Roger Hallett/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto’s civilian watchdog failed to oversee police during G20: report Add to ...

The civilian board that governs Toronto police failed to oversee the force during the G20 summit, was cut out of key decisions and did not ask enough questions that could have found flaws in the security plans at the summit, a new report says.

To prevent such a problem from happening again, the Toronto Police Services Board must take a more pro-active role in demanding information from police on their operations and setting the force’s priorities, says former judge John Morden.

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Board chair Alok Mukherjee accepted the conclusions and said his organization would look at making changes within four months.

“We acknowledge that mistakes were made, and we’re committed that lessons learned from the summit will be applied in future,” he said Friday. Mr. Mukherjee refused to comment on the report’s specifics, saying the board needed more time to go over them.

Chief Bill Blair has called a news conference this afternoon to respond to the report.

Mr. Morden found that board members knew nothing or were only dimly aware of major planning decisions before the G20. In other decisions, they took no part in setting directions.

These included: that Toronto officers were tasked with protecting the fence around the summit site, a job that prevented them from stopping a riot a few blocks north; the confusing command structure, which placed some police units under the control of the RCMP; the chief’s request for the province to invoke the so-called “five-metre rule” at the security fence and the temporary detention centre, whose inefficient organization meant some protesters were held for 24 hours without seeing a lawyer.

The problem, Mr. Morden said, was that the board and police force mistakenly thought that the force’s civilian overseers had no right to discuss operational matters. In fact, he said, they can and should get operational information and set the force’s priorities. The only thing they are not allowed to do is give officers orders on day-to-day decisions.

City councillor Pam McConnell, who was the board’s vice-chair at the time of the summit, applauded the report. When she was on the board, she said members constantly pushed for more oversight, but were told by their lawyers that they could not get involved in the force’s operations.

“This report is a sea change in the culture of what’s permitted in civilian oversight,” she said. “There was a culture of separating operations and policy that we challenged over and over. I have a great deal of confidence that this chair will take this forward.”

The major problem, Ms. McConnell said, was that the federal government announced the summit location with so little notice that there wasn’t time for the board to properly sort out its role.

On other files, such as racial profiling and the use of tasers, the board was able to do the research required to get involved, she said.

Follow on Twitter: @adrianmorrow

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