Toronto - Police violence was likely more prevalent than protester violence during the G20 according to a report recently released by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).
While media reports on the G20 protests have focussed heavily on protester violence and vandalism, the OIPRD report shows that there were more complaints that police used excessive force, than reports that police were injured during the G20.
An internal police review completed after the G20 found that 97 officers “were injured in the course of carrying out their duties.” While the internal report ties only 2 of these injuries to protesters violence, the OIPRD report also outlines a number of instances of protesters throwing projectiles at police.
In addition to police injuries, 330 assorted criminal charges (not all for violence) were laid against protesters and bystanders with 201 of them stayed, withdrawn or dismissed. A remaining 32 people plead guilty to a host of charges, while another 50 had their charges diverted or were subject to peace bonds. 34 charges are outstanding.
This contrasts sharply with statistics on police use of force in the OIPRD report. 356 complaints were made to the OIPRD, with 129 that complained of excessive use of force by the police. Of the original 356 complaints, 119 were substantiated by the OIPRD. The CBC has reported that the OIPRD has recommended charges against 45 officers under the Police Services Act.
While the report does not disclose how many of the substantiated complaints were based off of excessive force, the report does clearly state: "In some cases, there was excessive use of force."
In an interview with the the Toronto Media Co-op, Gerry McNeilly, the Independent Police Review Director responsible for the report was asked if there was more police violence than protester violence.
"I don't know if that's a fair question for me to answer. My report clearly indicates that in certain instances and times excessive force was used and it should not have been."
Speaking anonymously to the Toronto Media Co-op, a former Member of the Toronto Police Service says that a culture of violence is common in the TPS.
"A lot of people aren't aware that a number of police officers have criminal records and that few lose their badges as a result of criminal convictions," they said.
According to the former member, when TPS officers get charged, it's "both under the Criminal Code and the Police Services Act (PSA). With the PSA, it's police policing their own. Charges under the Criminal Code related to domestic violence - assaults, threats - are the most common. A subsequent charge of Discreditable Conduct under the PSA usually follows."
Penalties for TPS officers charged and convicted under the PSA would generally range from the docking of pay to postponement of promotions. The 45 officers recommended for charge by the OIPRD are being charged under the PSA. Only two officers have been charged by the Special Investigations Unit under the Criminal Code.
The former member believes there are systemic reasons why police would be prone to conflict or engage in violence.
"A lot of seasoned police officers come from smaller cities/towns outside Toronto and joined the police force straight out of high school, having had little experience with economically, socially and culturally diverse groups and people with mental health issues."
"I think a lot of police officers feel the public doesn't understand the nature of their job and what they see and deal with on a daily basis. They feel taken for granted and as a result typically take a defensive stance when it comes to allegations of police misconduct. A confrontation with a protester, for example, would be attributed to some hostile conduct or instigation on the part of that person, rather than the police."
In addition to violence, the OIPRD makes a number of other allegations of improper conduct during the G20 including the removal of nametags by officers, the disregarding (or lack of understanding) of stop and search laws, illegal arrest and detention of protesters with no access to lawyers and the kettling of protesters at Queen and Spadina which the OIPRD report calls, "unreasonable, unnecessary and unlawful."
Most tellingly, the report outlines that police did not follow the basic duty of supporting people's Charter rights to protest: "That the police placed more emphasis on seeking out Black Bloc [protesters] than respecting the rights of citizens is clear."
Quotes from the report:
"The fact that some officers removed their nametags can not be ignored"
"It also appeared that a number of police officers failed to properly understand - or they disregarded - the laws pertaining to stopping and searching people during the G20."
"The police did not have the requisite grounds to believe each arrested party had committed the offence of unlawful assembly the previous day and a warrant was required to arrest a person…and such a warrant was never obtained."
"The continued arrest and detention of people at Queen and Spadina was unreasonable, unnecessary and unlawful."
"A number of detainees were held for more than 24 hours, with no charges laid and no access to a lawyer."