Tuesday, July 06, 2010

G-20 policing: the tipping point?

It's far from what we want, but it could be the next-best thing: an independent review of police actions during the G-20 in Toronto.

Even those who might have thought at first that I and others were a little over the top on the subject of Toronto police culture and its potential for harm may have joined in our mounting dismay as more and more stories and videos of police brutality have emerged over the past few days. But for sheer horror, this account might have been the one that prompted the powers that be to mount at least the semblance of an investigation:

[I]n came a line of armoured police, into an area the city had promised would be safe for peaceful demonstrations during the summit. They closed right in on John and his daughter and the two others and ordered them to move. Pruyn tried getting up and he fell, and it was all too slow for the police.

As Sarah began pleading with them to give her father a little time and space to get up because he is an amputee, they began kicking and hitting him. One of the police officers used his knee to press Pruyn’s head down so hard on the ground, said Pruyn in an interview this July 4 with Niagara At Large, that his head was still hurting a week later.

Accusing him of resisting arrest, they pulled his walking sticks away from him, tied his hands behind his back and ripped off his prosthetic leg. Then they told him to get up and hop, and when he said he couldn’t, they dragged him across the pavement, tearing skin off his elbows , with his hands still tied behind his back. His glasses were knocked off as they continued to accuse him of resisting arrest and of being a “spitter,” something he said he did not do. They took him to a warehouse and locked him in a steel-mesh cage where his nightmare continued for another 27 hours.

What kind of an organizational culture allows this sort of thing to happen? What kind of a police chief presides over it? What kind of a Premier blows it off?

This inquiry may not amount to a hill of beans. The Toronto Police Services Board that announced it today refused to listen to public deputations at its meeting, even one from former Toronto Mayor John Sewell. But we'll be watching, anxiously and with what hope is left to us, to see who will be conducting the investigation and what his or her terms of reference will be. Could there be light at the end of this very dark tunnel?

UPDATE: (July 14) Commenter "Morning: rightly points out that other police forces were involved. The Toronto Star made a similar point earlier this week, casting some gloom over the notion of a TPS Board inquiry, no matter how independent.


Morning said...

Which is exactly the problem. I forwarded this link in reply to an email I sent to my representatives a week ago (that email contained a link to an undeniable happenstance of police abuse and brutality, found also on this blog I believe). What the Police Services Board put forward is a good smoke screen, but in the end it is not what is needed.

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