Chief Bill Blair issues statement about G20 policing
What a week! First Rob Ford defied expectations by showing up at PFLAG's rainbow flag raising event at City Hall yesterday and today Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has acknowledged that "there were things that were not done well" at the G20. As far as the latter goes, today's statement from Blair is carefully crafted to praise the TPS more than knock it, but has just enough of a remorseful tone to quiet some of the criticism directed towards him upon the release of yesterday's report from Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
Blair pretty much had to write this letter in the wake of what was a thoroughly damning but ultimately unsurprising evaluation of police actions on that fateful weekend in June 2010, though it's not entirely clear exactly what he's claiming responsibility for other than the fact that a better job could have been done, which pretty much everyone except certain city council members already knew.
Here's the full text of his statement. If there's one sentence to draw attention to, it's the lead to the third last paragraph: "We did our best to protect the people of Toronto and our city from the violence and destruction that this event brought." Given the contents of the OIPRD review, is this an appropriate statement to make?
I would like to respond to public concerns arising from the OIPRD's Systemic Review Report on the conduct of police personnel during the G20 Summit.
The OIPRD's Report identifies many serious deficiencies in the police response that weekend. Mr. McNeilly makes 42 recommendations to address these deficiencies. I want to assure the people of Toronto that the Toronto Police Service and I accept the observations and recommendations contained in this report. We will act quickly to respond to those recommendations directed to us. In fact, the TPS After-Action Review, released in June 2011, identified many of the same problems. We have already made significant progress with the procedural and training changes to address the issues raised.
In addition, the OIPRD has identified a number of instances in which Mr. McNeilly has found there is evidence of misconduct on the part of members of the Toronto Police Service, including a number of Senior Officers and he has directed that hearings be conducted under the Police Services Act. These hearings will take place.
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 the hearings to a retired judge, and to seek the services of a former Crown Attorney to prosecute these cases. These hearings will be conducted in public and the results made public at the conclusion of the proceedings.
The G20 represented an unprecedented challenge for the Toronto Police Service. I believe, and Mr. McNeilly has confirmed, that the vast majority of police officers conducted themselves professionally and that, generally, policing of the events was done well.
We did our best to protect the people of Toronto and our city from the violence and destruction that this event brought. We also attempted to facilitate lawful, peaceful protest and maintain the security of the Summit site. As Mr. McNeilly notes, many officers demonstrated courage and dedication in the face of great danger and provocation, and I remain proud of the work they did.
At the same time, I fully acknowledge that there were things that were not done well. We have learned from these shortcomings. We will act on the recommendations and hold accountable those who are found to have engaged in misconduct.
As the Chief of Police, I accept responsibility for the actions of the Toronto Police Service and its members. I will ensure that the lessons we learn during the G20 are incorporated into our procedures, our training and our future response. I am also fully committed to holding police officers of any rank accountable for misconduct. I remain committed to the safety of our City and all its citizens. I remain committed to restoring the confidence of the people we are sworn to serve and protect.
Chief William Blair
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