Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blair says he's not going anywhere

TORONTO - No one should be anticipating an apology from Toronto’s police chief over the way the G20 Summit in Toronto a year ago.

Chief Bill Blair called the Service’s After-Action Review he released Thursday a “comprehensive” and “honest” look at policing during the G20.
“It’s not a conduct report,” Blair said, explaining there are investigations by other bodies aimed at such things.
The review “provides a lot of facts that were previously unavailable and he’s hoping citizens and police officers take the time to read in its entirety, he said.
“We’ve tried to include, almost minute by minute, what transpired there to help people understand the decisions that were made,” Blair said. “That context is really important to understanding what went well, what could have gone better, (and) why certain things were done.”
Nearly 21,000 police officers from forces across the country were brought in to patrol the city as world leaders met at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and thousands of protestors hit the streets.
The demonstrations were initially peaceful but by the Friday it was clear there were some in the crowd who were bent on causing trouble.
Employing now infamous black bloc tactics, they rampaged through the downtown core, smashing windows, hurling bottles of urine and other weapons at police and torching cruisers.
“It was a very dangerous, volatile situation,” Blair said.
Trying to “facilitate lawful protests in the middle of a riot” was a nearly impossible feat, the Chief said.
In order to restore order, police began arresting people, many of whom still claim they did nothing wrong.
In the end, more than 1,100 citizens were taken into custody. Most were later released without any charges.
More than 350 people have since filed complaints about the conduct of officers with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, one of the numerous bodies conducting reviews in the wake of the G20.
The Toronto Police report paints a disturbing picture of the tumultuous weekend, illustrating just how chaotic the situation became.
“What worked well was our responsibility to protect that summit site,” Blair said. “The summit itself was not interrupted and none of those people were put at risk.”
“(But) our tactical response could use improvement, we know that,” he added.
Blair has come under heavy fire since the G20 with many people calling for him to resign or be fired.
But the Chief said he’s not going anywhere.
“I know my job and I’m doing it,” he said. “We do a pretty good job, I think, of providing a safe environment and a respectful environment for the people of this city and I’m absolutely committed to continuing to do that.
“If there has been damage to that public trust, then we’ll work to restore it,” he added.
However, Blair said he doesn’t believe two days in June of last year, is enough to hurt the relationship Toronto cops have built with residents over many years.
Blair said doesn’t feel he is to blame for anything that went wrong.
“I wasn’t directly involved in operational decisions,” Blair said. “But I’m always the Chief of Police in Toronto.”   

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