The final hearing of Toronto’s G20 Inquiry

Below is the text of an address I made to the Toronto G20 Inquiry on Monday June 13th, 2011 at the Scarborough Civic Centre before Justice John Morden (ret’d.) I was rather disappointed to see so few people present at the hearing, but it was the third and final one and the press was quite sparsely represented also. All the usual suspects were present, and speaker after speaker received calls of “Right on!” together with loud, disruptive clapping by several present, including one woman who was invited to speak before the TV cameras even though she did not address the Inquiry. I received no press coverage that I am aware of, although I stuck to the issue and made several recommendations for the Inquiry’s consideration. The TV coverage seemed to come from Global TV, and CTV was nowhere to be seen. Receiving coverage were several people who complained bitterly about police misbehaviour and their own ‘harrowing’ experiences, but had nothing to say beyond that. They were clearly playing to the press, and to the gallery. When I came to the issue of “Officer Bubbles” I was aware of a stirring in the crowd, but didn’t know why and continued with my address. It appears that Courtney Winkels was sitting just a few feet away from me. She too was interviewed by Global. At the end of my submission I wasn’t asked any questions, but Judge Morden did hold up the typed copy of my submission and said that he would refer to it again in his deliberations. So my primary objective, which was to provide worthwhile input to the Inquiry, was met. My second objective, which was to obtain press coverage to add wider reinforcement to objective number one, failed. C’est la vie! One can only try.

(The punctuation is intended to facilitate verbal delivery, and may appear stilted in parts with occasional run-on sentences.)

Your Honour, members of the Toronto Police Services Board: My name is Jeff Goodall, and although I was not present at the events of June 2010, I believe that I can be of assistance to your inquiry as I lived in Toronto for many years, and attended pretty-much every demonstration which took place in Toronto between the spring of 1968 and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. I suggest to you that a look at some of the differences between how things were handled last year, and how they were handled some 40-plus years ago, may provide some useful hints into the reasons why this Inquiry is taking place. Firstly, I can assure you that the Toronto police of 45 years ago would never back down from a fight, would never have abandoned their cruisers to the mob, and they would never have stayed out of harm’s way if Yonge Street or any other part of town was being trashed. In those days, to be a police officer involved height and weight requirements, and the uniform was navy blue with a tie, peaked hat with a red band to match the stripe down the creased pants, and a Sam Browne belt. The physical appearance of the police demanded respect, and while policing was a bit rougher than it is now, we all knew where we stood, and the streets were considerably safer. Officers who exceeded the norms of the day were quietly off-loaded. The police have always been expected to take deliberate risks if necessary, and in the past, they would do so. That is not necessarily the case now, as was convincingly demonstrated by the police failure to confront demonstrators in the several situations where police cruisers were set on fire, and in the absence of any apparent effort whatsoever to prevent the rampage downtown, where a hundred or so businesses centred on Yonge Street had their windows smashed in. It is noteworthy that the police had little difficulty in ‘kettling’ demonstrators, and in arresting over a thousand people, mostly bystanders, the great majority of whom were not even charged, the following day when the police had sufficient numbers available to guarantee success. And, there are several allegations, presently before the courts, of the police assaulting individuals who either defied them, or who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. One thing that the police need to do is to become ‘media savvy’ with regards to the traps that can be laid for them by persons with cell-phones or other devices. One young demonstrator, and I feel quite sure that she knew exactly what she was doing, blew bubbles towards a police officer who fell for the set-up hook, line and sinker, and who by his excessive reaction achieved world-wide notoriety as “Officer Bubbles”. The police need to learn ways to identify and to deal with situations like this, as it can be very easy to goad police officers who are already under stress into intemperate acts that can cause them and the police service they represent a great deal of bad press. A person I know, an officer in the Militia, told me that he saw police officers at one location posing for photographs and pretending to look threatening for the benefit of a group of ‘students’ or ‘tourists’ and he thought that was very ‘sporting’ of the officers concerned. But, photographs like that could be sent around the world as proof positive of Toronto police brutality, with considerable embarrassment resulting for the officers involved, in addition to substantial negative affects on the Toronto police image. My advice to the police in that regard is to get some of the police officers from the Sixties and Seventies out of retirement to tell you of their experiences, and to advise you on how to spot such traps and how to defuse them effectively with minimum fuss and minimum bad press. One “Officer Bubbles” is quite enough. Our Constitution makes the provinces responsible for the administration of justice, and while the RCMP is a federal agency, the provinces are legally entitled to investigate their own provincial and municipal police services. I therefore strongly suggest that the Toronto Police Services Board consider making appropriate recommendations to Queen’s Park, before the provincial government steps in and imposes changes which might be somewhat less to the Board’s liking. I further suggest that it would be a good idea to prepare input as soon as possible, so as to be ready for any request from the province. I really would like to see this entire matter of “policing the police” become a major issue in the upcoming provincial election, because I sense that the public wants change, and Queen’s Park is the only place where it’s going to happen. I am particularly concerned that a police ‘culture’ has developed in which front-line Toronto police officers often seem to think that they can do whatever they want, including assaulting innocent civilians and trampling on their rights, and then protect each other using a ‘code of silence’ that would do credit to those the police routinely criticize for ‘not seeing’ murders often committed in front of hundreds of witnesses. And, the head of the Special Investigations Unit has complained that no less a personage than Police Chief William Blair himself, has refused to co-operate with the SIU, and has declined to order his officers to co-operate with the SIU. (I then ad-libbed a little, asking what is the point of having a Special Investigations Unit if police chiefs can ignore it with impunity… that completely defeats the purpose of having an SIU…) This is intolerable, and is exactly the kind of issue that can crystallize public opposition to the police, and can cause serious political pressure for a massive crackdown. The police are not likely to be allowed to continue investigating each other for much longer, and I suggest that it will be much better for them to bend with the breeze, than to resist. Every police force needs to have a strong, vigorously enforced and permanent programme, designed to weed out the bullies, the psychopaths and the sadists, who are naturally attracted to police work in the same way that paedophiles are attracted to school yards and youth groups. And, bearing in mind that the pay for a first-class constable will soon be approximately twice the average wage, there is no doubt in my mind that one factor taken into account in determining police pay scales is a substantial “risk” component, intended to acknowledge the hazards that the police are expected to face in the performance of their duties. And while police work is far less dangerous than several other occupations, such as construction work for example, the expectation that the police will step forward and accept the risk of being injured or even killed in the service of the public deserves particular consideration, that must of necessity be of a monetary nature. As the police have now clearly demonstrated that they are not prepared to confront those breaking the law, and will not even try to protect public property or even their own cruisers, unless they are present in sufficient numbers to guarantee success, I think it is now time to determine the current monetary value of the “risk” component in their pay packets, and to reduce their pay accordingly. And that concludes my submission, Your Honour.”

See “Toronto’s G-20 Inquiry re-visited” (June 4th, 2014) here.