G20 aftermath: Time to ‘take back the police’?

The order to ‘take back the streets’ was given to senior police officers by Deputy-Chief Warr in the presence of Chief Blair.  For Warr to give such an order in front of the Chief without first clearing it with him would be either presumptuous or outright insubordinate. 

And Blair’s presence, combined with his failure to require clarification from his deputy, means that the Chief gave his clear consent and assumed full responsibility.

That being said, in my opinion the police should always be in control of the streets, and an order to that effect is hardly surprising under the circumstances prevailing at that time.  The issue here is how the order was interpreted and passed down to the street level cops by the senior officers involved.  Additionally, the Chief and his Deputy do not appear to have made any meaningful effort to monitor the subsequent events as they developed. 

As I see it, they either completely ignored the actions taken by their various subordinates after the key meeting took place, or they were fully aware of the blatant abuses of the rights of many hundreds of innocent civilians, and quite simply chose to not intervene. 

And yet the Black Bloc perpetrators were able to fry a number of expensive police cruisers, and trash several dozens of business establishments, without any interference whatsoever…  Anything wrong with this picture? 

The orders of one of the ‘incident commanders’, Supt. Fenton, were described as “maniacal” by one of the street-level officers involved.  Was there no oversight being exercised from the Chief’s office?  As news reports began to come in, the Chief could not possible have remained unaware of the likelihood that things were going horribly wrong in some respects.  As I see it, even in the best scenario his eventual response was too little, too late.

And, of course, underlying all of this is the ghastly ‘we’re the cops and we can do whatever we want to you and get away with it’ mentality that we see so often in incidents involving just single or small numbers of officers. 

This ‘entitlement culture’ of being able to beat and even kill members of the public, and then lie and falsify notebooks to conceal guilt and protect each other, has to be thoroughly rooted out or we are just wasting our time. 

More reason why the infamous “Blue Wall” must be smashed to pieces. 

Maybe it’s time for the public to ‘take back the police’.

Jeff Goodall.

Blair shouldn’t be allowed to make next move on G20 mess

Toronto Sun
Joe Warmington: May 16th, 2012

TORONTO – Like out of A Few Good Men, who ordered the Code Red?

“Take back the street” was an order that flew out of a meeting at Toronto Police headquarters convened by an “angry” Chief Bill Blair.

This order changed the whole tone of the G20 weekend.

Was it lawful?

It resulted in 1,000 people — not related to the Black Bloc — being detained.

Without this order there would have been no Adam Nobody arrest or broken arm for Dorian Barton. No Officer Bubbles folklore, people charged at by Mounted Unit horses, rubber bullets, mass arrests, detentions, kettling and strip searches.

The comprehensive 300-page report released Wednesday by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeilly spelled out findings that showed what went wrong started at the top.

At 5:18 p.m., Saturday, June 26, 2010, Supt. Mark Fenton said, “I attended the conference room that was set up as an area for the chief and command to view some of the CCTV video being generated … I entered and Supt. (Hugh) Ferguson was immediately to my left. The chief (Blair) was sitting at the head of the table. Beside the chief was Dep. (Chief) (Tony) Warr…The chief was asking why he could not see police officers in the pictures … The chief appeared to be angry and frustrated in his demeanour.”

Fenton asked, “Why are we not arresting these people?”

He said he was “referring to the terrorists that were attacking police and property” when “the chief responded by looking at me and saying, ‘That is a very good question, Mark.’ ”

Thanks to this report we now know this is where the whole weekend turned.

Fenton said, “Immediately Dep. Warr spoke and said “OK, this is what we are going to do: We are going to take back the streets.” Deputy Warr looked at me and said, “I want you to take back the streets.”

McNeilly’s report also deals with a similar exchange where Ferguson asked Fenton “about direction from the chief.” Supt. Fenton answered “Own the streets” and “as soon as groups of people are seen, arrest them for breach of the peace.”

The result was innocent people like Jason Wall, Tommy Taylor and amputee John Pryne were arrested, handcuffed for up to 48 hours and detained without proper water or access to lawyers.

McNeilly said police actions were at times “unreasonable” and “unlawful.”

If they are doing their jobs and read the report, the premier, mayor and Toronto Police Services Board must now decide if Blair should continue on as chief.

Previously Blair has said, “I wasn’t directly involved in operational decisions.” The account in here from Fenton and Ferguson, however, puts the chief in the room where this decision to “take back the streets” was ordered.

Those in the room are accountable to the chief but who is he accountable to?

He has obvious conflicts as the person with Toronto Police with the sole responsibility to hand out internal discipline and punishment. Blair said Wednesday he will go to the board to ensure there “will be hearings” into any “misconduct” of senior officers under his command with a view to potential Police Services Act charges.

The problem is how can any of the people in that room be charged when the chief was sitting at the table where the order was given?

He had the same conflict when he had to take back his comments on the Adam Nobody arrest. How can he hand out punishment to an officer now charged when he has previously been involved in the same case?

The chief is just too close to this mess to be the guy who handles the discipline.

For real accountability there needs to be an independent person to decide if what went on in the room where the order was given was appropriate.

Perhaps a new police chief? Or a public inquiry?

The other concern is many of the senior commanders involved have retired or moved on and are not subject to internal probes.

To his credit, the likable Blair answered his critics himself and was professional. But the chief’s continued defiance boggled the minds of reporters who were respectfully trying to get him to just say, “We screwed up, we made mistakes and we are sorry and we will fix it.”

If he was in the room when the order was given to arrest innocent people for simply walking down the street in a free country, the buck should stop with him.

See original here.

See the archive for the “Toronto Police: G-20 Riots and Beyond” category here.

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