A Toronto police officer has been suspended after allegedly leaking information about a “potential risk” in the Greater Toronto Area that was investigated last week, authorities said Tuesday.
Uncorroborated information about a potential risk led the force to increase its presence in the city’s downtown core on Thursday, but police simultaneously urged the public not to avoid the neighbourhood that includes attractions like the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, sparking confusion and concern among some locals.
The officer who was suspended with pay is being investigated by the force’s Professional Standards unit and is accused of sharing information regarding Thursday’s situation with someone outside the force, said police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray.
Gray said the officer allegedly shared the information with a “private sector partner” of police – as opposed to a member of the media, the government or the general public.
“The investigation will determine whether he faces unit-level discipline, whether he will go in front of (an internal) tribunal, whether the allegations are unfounded,” she said.
As a matter of standard protocol, the officer’s name will not be released to the public unless he is charged with a professional offence under the Police Services Act and referred to a tribunal, Gray said.
A formal tribunal is also the only form of internal discipline that police would tell the public about, as is standard practice, she added.
Gray said the force’s Professional Standards unit is also conducting a second, separate investigation into the leak of a draft memo on Thursday that said officers had received “credible information regarding a potential vehicle ramming attack in the area of the CN Tower.”
The leaked document was a “draft operational plan” and was not approved for release, Gray said, adding that police gave the public all the information officers had at the time.
Gray said there is currently no reason to believe that the suspended officer was linked to the leaked memo.
Thursday’s developments began with a tweet sent by police at 9:30 a.m. that an “unconfirmed, uncorroborated piece of information” about the GTA had led them to boost the number of officers downtown.
Police then held a news conference saying the heightened police presence in the core was a response to information about a potential risk, but that there was no reason to avoid the downtown area or any of Toronto’s major attractions.
Some Torontonians criticized the limited amount of information shared by police.
“I think it’s kind of scary because you know there’s a threat but you don’t know what it is,” Nida Rafiq, who works near Union Station, had said Thursday. Others took to social media to share their concerns.
Late Thursday night, shortly before 11 p.m., police issued a statement saying they had resumed normal operations.
Gray said last week that the information released by police was similar to what they have revealed in similar situations in the past.
“I think we would look to follow the same sort of process if we were ever faced with this situation again,” she said. “Every incident is different, every incident and investigation is going to guide what you tell the public and what you’re not (but) certainly we will always err on the side of providing as much information as possible.”