Bill Blair was the chief of the Toronto Police Service during the 2010 G20 summit. He is currently the federal Liberal candidate in Scarborough Southwest.
The G20 summit presented unprecedented challenges to police.
The last-minute venue change left only a few months to prepare. The scale of the event required an integrated security response, headed by the RCMP, staffed by 22 police services. Operational command for downtown Toronto was the responsibility of a TPS Superintendent, under the direction of the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit. It is a matter of public record that I appeared nowhere on the G20 organizational chart. I did not give, nor authorize, any operational commands.
As it concluded Sunday evening, I became aware several hundred people were detained in the rain at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue. I gave my first, and only, G20 operational order. I directed they be released immediately.
I was, at all times, the chief of the Toronto Police Service, responsible for the safety of Toronto's citizens and the conduct of my officers. I never wavered from these responsibilities, that public concerns were addressed, that improvements made to our policies, procedures and training and, where misconduct occurred, officers were held accountable.
On June 29, 2010, I announced an after-action report to take a hard look at what we did and how we did it, and provide a model for improved best practices. On June 23, 2011, the 70-page report was released. In the introduction, I said: "We are fully accountable to the people of Toronto. We owe it to the people we are sworn to serve and protect to take a hard look at ourselves. There are many questions about Summit events in Toronto last June. The people of this city are entitled to ask tough questions, and they have. We must do our best to answer those questions."
The report presented an exhaustive summit chronology and scrutinized planning, training, intelligence, fence security, prisoner management and risk management. It made 10 recommendations. All have been acted upon. Few who've commented seem to have read it. In response to complaints about the G20 conduct of TPS members, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director's Gerry McNeilly conducted a comprehensive investigation. I met with him, co-operated fully and answered all his questions.
On May 18, 2012, in response to his systemic review, I said: "The OIPRD's report identifies many serious deficiencies in the police response that weekend. I accept the observations and recommendations. We will act quickly to respond to those recommendations directed to us." All the recommendations have been acted upon.
With respect to the Police Services Act misconduct hearings he directed, I said, "Given the extraordinary public interest in these important matters, and to provide public assurance, I intend to exercise my authority under the Police Services Act to delegate the authority to conduct hearings to a retired judge, and to seek the services of a former Crown attorney to prosecute these cases. These cases will be conducted in public and the results made public at the conclusion of the proceedings." This has been done.
As I said on May 18, 2012, "As the chief of police, I accept responsibility for the actions of the Toronto Police Service and its members." Where was I? I was doing my job as the chief of police to keep the public safe and to uphold the rule of law. I took responsibility, held myself and my people accountable and took the necessary action to serve the public interest.