TORONTO - The civilian agency charged with overseeing Toronto's police force made mistakes in handling policing of the violence-marred G20 summit, its head admitted Friday, but the city's top officer said the biggest problem was the lack of time to prepare for the event.
Commenting on a new review critical of the agency's role, the head of the Toronto Police Services Board said the report's 38 recommendations would be reviewed with the aim of improving oversight of policing.
"We acknowledge that mistakes were made," Alok Mukherjee said.
"We are committed to ensuring the lessons learned through this experience are applied in the future."
Mukherjee's remarks followed the formal release of a report by retired justice John Morden, who criticized the police board for its passive stance leading up to the June 2010 summit.
Effectively, Morden said, the board simply failed to live up to its responsibilities.
Among other things, the board misinterpreted its legal rights by failing to ask questions of Chief Bill Blair and obtain the information it needed to fulfil its role.
"This is the essence of civilian oversight: the exchange of information, insights, concerns, analyses on the policing issue at hand," Morden said.
"No arbitrary limit can be placed on the matters that can properly be discussed."
Morden does have some sympathy with the board, given that the federal government gave city police a scant four months to prepare for the massive security operation, when at least two years would have been more appropriate.
His board-commissioned report, which runs to 357 pages plus appendices, also faults Ottawa for its failure to communicate, leaving the agency entirely dependent on others for information.
"As the entities that would bear the brunt of the policing and security for the G20 summit, the board and the Toronto Police Service should not have been excluded from the federal government's decision-making with regard to the event," Morden writes.
"The hallmarks one would expect to see in putting together a major international security event — deliberation, co-operation, and sufficient time to plan — were absent."
Morden's review comes weeks after Ontario's independent police watchdog blasted police for violating civil rights, detaining people illegally and using excessive force.
There has been no public review to date of the role played by the federal government in the G20 fiasco.
Overall, Morden concludes the board fell short in keeping a proper eye on city police, who initially deployed too many resources to the inner security zone, creating a "vacuum" in much of the downtown area where vandals went on a rampage.
The board also had no idea of gaps in the policing command-and-control structure in place for the summit that caused confusion and delay in the deployment of officers at critical times, Morden said.
Poor crowd management "led to a heavy-handed response" in dealing with the vandalism that erupted that weekend.
Nor did the board provide any oversight of the temporary detention centre set up for the summit where hundreds of people were held.
Blair agreed civilian oversight is crucial to effective policing, but said everyone did they best they could given the time they had to prepare.
"In hindsight and after the fact, I think it's quite fair to go back and say more might have been done," Blair said.
"I provided the board with the information that I had available to them and I alerted them to some of the issues."
The summit was marred by vandalism and the arrest of more than 1,100 people, among the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.
Morden said police training was inadequate both on a practical level as well as when it came to the exercise of powers such as arrest and charter rights related to mass public demonstrations.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Morden's review illustrates the need for improved civilian oversight of police as key to preserving civil liberties.
"The report also illustrates the need for better cross-jurisdictional accountability mechanisms," the association said.
"There are still many gaps and questions that remain unanswered."
Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, would not comment on Morden's report, but noted the RCMP were found blameless by a similar review.