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G20 review will focus on decision-making process: police board chair

Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee, shown in 2006.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The independent probe into Toronto Police conduct during the G20 summit will be sweeping and demand a play-by-play of who called what shots and when, the Toronto Police Services Board chair told The Globe and Mail on Friday.

"Nobody has a clear idea of how the decisions were made, who was making the decisions," said Alok Mukherjee, whose board called for the civilian review at a special meeting on Tuesday. "There's a certain lack of clarity about who has authority over which incident."

Mr. Mukherjee will ask a yet-to-be appointed reviewer to track every single call that was made in the jurisdiction of Toronto Police as protesters smashed storefronts and set cars alight, in events that saw about a thousand people arrested by the end of the summit weekend.

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That reviewer will also make clear which decisions were up to Toronto Police, which came from the RCMP, and which directions were issued by the Integrated Security Unit from its command post in Barrie, Ont.

The board of seven civilians, which oversees the Toronto police force, can only look at governance and policy issues, Mr. Mukherjee said, which effectively bars them from calling a public inquiry.

They can't examine individual conduct, under the law, nor can they wade into operational issues; that's the chief's job.

"But we can say, 'Let's understand clearly how this structure of decision-making was working,'" Mr. Mukherjee said.

The independent review would be much more focused than a public inquiry, poring through the communication that took place both Saturday and Sunday, he added.

The Toronto Police chain of command, Mr. Mukherjee said, can be seen through information, images, and closed-circuit television camera footage sent to the command centre in Barrie. Some Toronto Police Service members were "incident commanders" and stayed in close contact with the command post, reporting what they saw on the ground, he said.

He said the body to which Toronto police reported depended on which zone they were in at the time. The RCMP had control of the south side of the perimeter, whereas Toronto police took care of the area to the north, where much of the vandalism happened.

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Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has pledged to conduct an internal operational review by the Summit Management After Action Review Team (SMAART). That report, which will study all aspects of policing during the G20, with special attention to police methods and best practices, is supposed to be ready by September.

The results of that review interest Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack far more than anything that could come from the board's independent review.

"They can look at the Toronto Police Service and look at their policies and how they advise the chief, but as far as the review and the SMAART report, that will give us the answers we need and [show]where they were coming from," he said.

The civilian review is fine by him, as long as the board stays within its boundaries, he said. But he added that those boundaries are almost too narrow to make any real statement about overall police actions during the G20 weekend.

"My concern is that the Police Services Board has no ability, if there were outside jurisdictions involved, to have them participate in the review," Mr. McCormack said.

Last week, Mr. Mukherjee joined Chief Blair in saying a public inquiry wasn't necessary, a statement that made Tuesday's announcement seem like an about-face.

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It wasn't, he said, but it did get him thinking.

"My board members are obviously very concerned that all of this happened on the streets of Toronto," he said. "[But]this broad investigation that people are asking for … we don't have authority to do."

The person who will conduct the independent review has not been chosen, he said, but he strongly hinted that he will pick someone with a judicial background.

"Broadly, I think we want someone with a great deal of credibility, and with all parties, and a judicial background - someone who has experience looking at complex questions," he said.

Chief Blair's office declined to comment on the independent civilian review on Friday. When the board announced its review on Tuesday, Chief Blair said he "respected" the decision.

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