Text of my formal complaint to the OIPRD

Who was involved / What was said and done:

As a brief background, I had been on Queen Street shortly before this incident, observing the crowds and police as I had done much of the G20 weekend, June 26th and 27th, 2010.  I did not participate in any of the protests but was photographing and videoing much of what was going on for the weekend.  I left the area as I could tell that the incidents occurring on Queen Street West near Soho were likely to become violent; I witnessed police attacking people peacefully singing the national anthem and decided it was unsafe to stay there – I left North up Soho Street to avoid the stampedes that were being caused by police surges.  But that is not what this complaint is about. 

After leaving, it began to pour rain heavily.  I sought the nearest shelter, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and intended to wait out the rain before going to a concert I had tickets to in the evening.  I sat on a ledge near the corner of Dundas Street West and Beverly Street.  There were others also trying to stay dry but I don’t know who any of them were.  In the 20 minutes I waited there for the rain to clear, some left, and others arrived.  Out of nowhere, a dozen Toronto Police officers in yellow rainjackets and on bikes arrived and screamed "Move! Now!" to the dozen or so people that had accumulated.  There was no specific direction as to where, how, or how far to move, or even why it was not acceptable to be there.

After leaving that area, I got almost to McCaul Street, still in front of the AGO but uncertain as to whether I had met the demand to "move! now!"  I observed three of the officers (they may have been different officers as it looked like they were coming from the East) approach two men and search their bags without their consent, at which point I pointed the camera which was already in my hand at them, as I had done several times over the weekend (I witnessed such searches at least a dozen times over the course of the weekend) with no complaint from the officers involved.  Within 5 seconds of doing so, another officer physically lowered my arm with the camera in it and turned me towards the wall.  He then proceeded to question me as follows (this is all on videotape which I have posted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGljZKHim8), throughout the duration of this exchange the officer physically searched me (patted me down) before I could object or even be asked permission:

Him: Do you have anything on you that can hurt me?
Me: No.
Him: Do you have anything on you?
Me: No.
Him: Did you not hear the LRAD message?
Me: Pardon me?
Him: The LRAD message?
Me: What was the LRAD message?
Him: This is no longer a peaceful assembly everyone was told to leave… Glasses?
Me: Sunglasses
Him: Nothing else on you?
Me: No.
Him: Okay, are you now leaving?
Me: Yes, I will leave, if you’re telling me to leave I’ll leave.  Which way do I go?
Him: Just keep going that way [pointing Eastwards down Dundas]

As I left Eastwards, into the rain, another officer heckled at me "Keep going buddy!"

My complaints are as follows, following the code of conduct posted on the OIPRD website:

The police have a code of conduct to follow that includes:
To act with honesty and integrity – from my understanding, the LRAD (which I later learned to mean "sound cannon") was never used – and if it was, it was certainly not where I was.  A series of rhetorical questions implying that I should have known better was, to me, dishonest.  Failing to communicate explicitly what the police wanted from me, where they wanted me to go (until after I had been forcibly searched and had the opportunity to ask), or why demonstrates a lack of integrity, and I do believe that I was targeted for attempting to document a pre-existing abuse as the first thing the officer did was prevent me from capturing on video the search of another person.

To treat people with respect – I do not believe that searching me without my permission demonstrated any respect, nor did heckling me to "keep moving" when I was already complying with their (implied) direction to leave.

Not to abuse the extraordinary powers and authority police officers are granted – I believe that powers were abused to tell people to "move" when neither I nor anyone around me seemed to be doing anything illegal or dangerous, and I did not see any arrests taking place as a result of such a demand.  It’s not even clear if the haphazard group of people trying to stay dry were even an "assembly" let alone not a peaceful one – or if that was even the "assembly" that the officer decided was not peaceful.  Please see also below regarding the Toronto Police’s standards on stopping people.

To act in a manner that does not discredit or undermine public confidence in the police service – while it was difficult to tell why everyone who had accumulated at the AGO had done so, there was clearly a handful of tourists in the crowd who were trying to stay dry.  For them to be forced out into the rain, as I was, discredits not only public confidence in the police service but, frankly, the city as a whole.

The Toronto Police Service’s website has a specific code of conduct on its website regarding being stopped by the police (http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/whenstopped/).  One of the components of the code includes that the officer "will tell you why you are being stopped" – I was never told this explicitly.  The same page explains that a person might be stopped if a police officer has reason to believe the person has committed a crime, is about to commit a crime, or has evidence of a crime.  If the officer believed that I had done or was about to do any of these things, he never informed me of this.  Finally, I never consented to a physical search and one was forced on me despite the fact that I was never placed under arrest or even accused of any crime.

Any other people who witnessed the incident (including other police officers):
There were about a dozen officers present, including the one who searched me, the one who heckled me, and the ones that were searching other people.  The only documentation I have of identities is what is on the video.

If there was any damage or injury: None.
If there was something that you feel caused the incident or affected your interaction with the police: I do believe I was singled out for documenting the search of other persons who were in the area.
If there is any evidence to preserve (e.g., medical records, photos, videos): only the video I linked earlier (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZGljZKHim8)
If this happened to someone else, the name and contact information of that person (if known): N/A
 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Neal, Did you ever receive a response to this?

    Reply

    • Sort of. I received a response letter saying that the OIPRD had “reviewed my complaint and determined that it is about the conduct of police officers assigned to the G20 summit.” (duh)
      They forwarded a copy to the Chief of Police (nice independent process…), and the OIPRD is conducting an investigation which has been assigned Complaint Number E-201007021513180 – the status can be checked on oiprd.on.ca where the status has been “Status : Complaint in OIPRD Investigation” since July 22nd.

      Reply

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