Watchdog: RCMP acted reasonably at G8-G20 summits
Published Monday, May 14, 2012 9:00PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:18AM EDT
An investigation into the RCMP's handling of protests and security concerns during the G20 summit in Toronto found police actions were "reasonable and appropriate."
The report from Ian McPhail, interim chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, was completed after the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others filed complaints.
The G20 summit took place in Toronto in June 2010, following a G8 gathering in Huntsville.
"The Commission found that, while there was room for improvement in some areas, the actions of the RCMP and its members in the context of the G8 and G20 Summits were reasonable and appropriate," McPhail said in a statement Monday.
The commission looked into four areas of concern outlined in the complaint:
- G8/G20 planning (including the location of the security fences)
- Infiltration and surveillance (if any) of individuals or groups before and during the summits
- Use of force, detentions and arrests during the summits
- Conditions at the Eastern Avenue detention facilities in Toronto
Civil rights advocates have complained that police used excessive force in controlling, corralling and arresting peaceful protesters, but stood back while other violent activists burned cars and vandalized buildings.
The commission, which conducted 38 interviews and reviewed 40,000 pages of documents as well as hours of footage, appeared to disagree -- at least concerning the RCMP.
While the Toronto Police Service was responsible for most of the frontline policing during the G20 Summit, the RCMP played a key role in planning security efforts, co-ordinating the events and protecting foreign visitors.
"In carrying out its responsibilities, the RCMP conducted itself in a reasonable and appropriate manner. Planning for both events was found to be thorough. The investigation did not reveal any instances of unreasonable use of force by RCMP members and found that although the RCMP's involvement in the 'kettling' incident was not consistent with its policies and practices, it was reasonable in the circumstances."
The so-called kettling incident refers to an instance where police surrounded a group of protesters in downtown Toronto and held them in place for hours in the rain.
The report suggests the RCMP had concerns about the tactic, which isn't normally in the Mounties' toolbox, but the site was under the control of the Toronto Police Service and OPP when the RCMP arrived.
McPhail told CTV's Power Play Monday that the RCMP's decision to go along with Toronto police was not "unreasonable."
But Abby Deshman of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that is "a concerning conclusion."
"If you read the report carefully, there are lots of things that went wrong in terms of the RCMP's conduct," she told Power Play.
The massive operation by several police forces was not properly organized and there seemed to be no accountability checks in place, Deshman said.
"To say that the RCMP were confused about (kettling) because there was insufficient planning and then to also conclude that the planning process was robust and thorough – to me that's a problematic finding."
One thing the RCMP did fail to do was keep proper records of their activities, according to the report. In one round-up two undercover police officers were arrested, but because no notes were taken it wasn't clear what, if anything, they had done to end up in custody, the report said.
The report recommends improvements to record keeping and post-event briefings, and says greater clarity is needed around operational policies for various policing partners.
Improvements are also needed concerning procedures for intelligence investigations around major events, the report says.
The RCMP issued a response to the report Monday, saying it considered the G20 and G8 operations a success because officers met their goal of ensuring safety and security, and enabling world leaders to hold their meetings.
"A number of the recommendations outlined by the CPC have already been addressed in our internal review of security operations. As with any major event, the RCMP will continue to examine areas that went well and areas we can improve upon in the future," said a statement provided to CTV News.
While the G20 events took place in Toronto, G8 events were held in Huntsville. The report looked at both locations, but the complaints that spurred the investigation were related to Toronto.
In total, more than two-dozen complaints were filed specifically against the Mounties. The civil liberties association complained specifically that media, human rights observers, protesters and even passersby were taken into custody by the RCMP.
Those who were arrested and taken to an east-end holding facility on Eastern Avenue were not allowed to speak to a lawyer or call their families, the association said.
However, McPhail essentially exonerated the RCMP in his report, saying they only made seven arrests out of more 1,000 detentions. And two of those were undercover police officers.
The report found the force did not take part in arrests at Queen's Park, The Esplanade or the University of Toronto.
The Mounties were also not involved in the controversy surrounding the detention centres, according to the report.
Those findings "really put the spotlight on the OPP and the Toronto Police Service," Deshman said, adding that many G20 incidents "seem to rest on the Toronto police's shoulders."
Deshman said she looks forward to reports assessing the conduct of Toronto police and OPP officers during the protests, but a more comprehensive investigation should have been planned from the start.
"From the outset, we've been calling for a cross-jurisdictional inquiry that would be able to examine the interactions of these different police forces," Deshman said. "The report on the RCMP has a lot of gaps."