Monday, June 20, 2011

Toronto cops G20 'whipping boys'

A year after the G20, public trust in the city’s police is at an all-time low — and so is the morale of many officers.

The situation has worsened with each new allegation of police brutality and little has been done to restore the faith in those sworn to serve and protect Toronto.

“It’s become embarrassing to say you’re a Toronto cop,” said one of several officers who recently spoke to the Toronto Sun on condition of anonymity.

He said it has become a daily concern and many cops are many are fed up with being “the whipping boys” for decisions they had no hand in making.

“Cops are leaving Toronto in droves,” he said, explaining many have either transferred to other forces, are in the process of doing so, or are getting out of policing.

He and others said a lot of strides had been made in improving community relations in recent years and their efforts were destroyed in one weekend.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has also come under fire, largely because he took responsibility for the decision-making. But Blair’s officers continue to support him.

“The chief was not the problem,” insisted one cop with knowledge of how the operation was administered. The officer said the RCMP actually “called the shots” at the G20. He said Blair would have entrusted his officers to make decisions as needed “on the ground,” but “his hands were tied.”

“When the trouble went down, our officers wanted to go and get the bad guys, but they were told not to,” one cop said, referring to the Black Bloc’s rampage up Yonge St. “That’s b-------”

He added the chief only took the reigns on the Sunday night after seeing disturbing media images of a kettled crowd of elderly, disabled and children shivering in the rain at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave.

The cop claims RCMP officers left Toronto soon after “without leaving so much as a cellphone number to get hold of them.”

“They cleared out of town like there was a bad smell in the room,” he said. “They ran away but the smell lingered.”

The cop said just as officers fear repercussions for speaking out, the chief has his own pressures.

Officers may not fault their chief for what transpired during the G20, but many take issue with his performance since.

“I think he’s had a lot of bad advice,” said one cop.

Blair refused to talk to the Sun for the anniversary of the G20, a move some officers feel was another misstep.

They said the chief should have used the opportunity to apologize to the public.

“He needs to say, ‘I’m sorry if some people feel they’ve been treated unfairly by my officers and I will ensure any allegations of wrongdoing are looked into,’” one cop said. “And explain we need to find a way to work through this together and move forward.”

Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack maintained the officers he speaks to are “proud” of their G20 efforts and the public remains supportive of them.

“Overall, the public I think is sophisticated enough to make the distinction between the G20 and everyday policing in Toronto,” he said, adding it’s unfair that cops have been “tried in the media.”

But Dorian Barton said if not for the media the cop who allegedly beat him at Queen’s Park would never have been charged.

The SIU opened his case three times before charging Const. Glenn Weddell, whose face was splashed in the news while officers claimed not to be able to identify him.

Although a year has passed, Barton agreed an apology is the way to start rebuilding the public’s trust.

“It’s never too late to take responsibility,” he said.

— With files by Antonella Artuso

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