Senior Toronto Officer Facing G20 Discipline

The investigation into the G20 continues, and approximately 15 police officers have been identified to date for discipline hearings. The Toronto Star recently obtained non-publicized documents from the The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) revealing the nature of discipline against Insp. Gary Meissner of 51 Division.

Police attempted to track down some of the violent protesters following some of the vandalism during the G20, including the “black bloc.” Early morning on June 27, 2010, Toronto police entered the Graduate Students Union’s (GSU) pub and gymnasium in the Koffler Student Centre at the University of Toronto in a pre-emptive strike. They arrested over 70 individuals who were asleep at the time, including Daniel Vandervoot, GSU’s External Commissioner.

Insp. Meissner commanded approximately 250 officers in Group Four of the Public Order Unit during the G20, and was responsible for the UofT raid. He told OIPRD that violent protesters did not board public transit, leading him to conclude that they were connected to local student groups. He initially wanted secure the perimeter around the GSU until a warrant could be obtained, but became concerned that people were waking up and leaving the building.

Police found what they described as “weapons of opportunity” inside the GSU, including bricks and sharpened sticks. The UofT campus had been otherwise closed as a result of the G20. In a press release the GSU stated,

In preparation for the G20 summit, our university collaborated with police and closed the campus, canceled academic events, obstructed access to basic services, and transferred students out of their dormitories. All three student unions and other campus and labor organizations at U of T condemned the administration’s decision to close, as should the public.

We believe that a key value of a university education is the right and obligation to criticize the accepted order. Academic freedom was trampled this weekend when two members of our executive were summarily arrested while carrying out their duties protecting our public right to dissent. The GSU categorically denies any involvement in any undemocratic activity and we call on university officials, the public and the media to support our collective freedoms and to release our innocent executive members with appropriate apologies.

The House of Commons reviewed the arrests in the UofT raid in the Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Issues Surrounding Security at the G8 and G20 Summits,

It is clear to the Committee and based on the evidence received that these operational decisions led to unjustified arrests which violated civil liberties. The Committee deplores the massive arrests during the G20 Summit and agrees with [CCLA’s] Ms. Des Rosiers’ analysis that the provisions of the Criminal Code regarding breaches of the peace were applied abusively in a context of peaceful demonstrations where there was no real threat to the peace. It should also be noted that in October, all of the charges arising from the arrests made in the University of Toronto gymnasium were withdrawn. Chief Blair explained to the Committee that this was because the police officers did not have the correct type of warrant. The circumstances of arrest required a Feeney warrant, i.e. a warrant for an arrest in a private dwelling.

The Committee finds it difficult to understand why the Toronto Police Force decided to arrest the more than 70 people who were sleeping in the University of Toronto gymnasium rather than arrest the many masked individuals who were in the crowd and were known to police. The police officers told the Committee of the information that the police force had in its possession regarding several violent protestors who used the Black Bloc tactics. The police also had photos of these individuals in action and had information indicating that they had committed or were on the verge of committing indictable offences. In response to the Committee’s question about the police’s treatment of these two groups, Chief Blair stated:

[T]he decision was made to not try to penetrate that crowd, because it would have created a more dangerous situation. In fact, an operational decision was made by the investigators that a safer place to apprehend people whom they believed were involved in criminal activity was the school gymnasium, away from the crowd. That was a safer thing to do.

The Committee decried the lack of transparency in the police actions, and included in their recommendations that the police provide an unconditional apology to those whose rights were violated during the G20, including apologies to those illegally arrested.

The OIPRD report is recommending charges against Meissner under the Police Services Act, and could result in penalties such as docked pay or termination. Insp. Meissner has been a police officer for 27 years.

 

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