I was involved in only one "G" event, known in those pre-inflation days as the G7 Summit, in 1988. Since the number has increased three times since then, you can imagine there may be three times the trouble. The news surrounding the Toronto police "After-Action Review" release prompted me to write my own, even if it is 23 years late.
My most memorable event occurred while controlling traffic downtown at the corner of York, University and Front Streets. As an experienced traffic officer I was placed there as a "master controller" of the intersection. Two divisional officers were assigned to assist in ensuring the orderly flow of traffic and giving convoys or entourages of IPPs (Internationally Protected Persons) the right of way. Located west of the Royal York Hotel, with hundreds of security personnel inside a caged off street, I didn't expect many challenges.
My first indication of "issues" was when I approached my two assistants. I suggested dividing up responsibilities but they quickly made it clear that I was the traffic officer and they would be out of their scout car if it looked like I needed help. I accepted this as code for "you're on your own pal. We're just here for the coffee and the overtime cheque."
I assumed a position to the east of the intersection, keeping watch on east bound traffic and studying the area for future reference (you can check it out on Google maps). My two dog-faced compatriots watched from their car between sips of coffee.
I was notified to take my traffic point as Margaret Thatcher's British entourage was leaving the hotel to go west. I stopped all east bound lanes of traffic and waved at my two aids to help. Of course we all know there is no signal that can't be misinterpreted; my wave prompted the stopped traffic to begin moving toward me. My two compatriots thought this rather humorous, chuckling at the traffic cop with the confusing hand signals. I quickly understood... I was on my own.
I waved "Maggy" and her crew to move out and instantly realized there was a "flying squad" of four motorcycle officers with the Japanese Prime Minister's four limousines coming north. I directed the point escort officer to stop but his hand signal was an emphatic "no," as they were suppose to have right of way. I signaled to the officer driving the front limousine for the British entourage to stop but the driver emphatically waved me off, as their direction was they had right of way. Both were getting dangerously close and I envisioned a spectacular headline in the next day's newspaper. I gestured once more for both to stop, along with a loud blast of my whistle. The only reaction was shaking heads. My compatriots scrambled out of their car but had no idea how to help. I finally took one last look at both moving groups and, with great emphasis, dropped the whistle from my mouth and folded my arms across my chest.
This signal appeared to work as both groups finally realized that I wasn't directing, looked left and right and realized what was happening. As the limousine pulled up to my left and the motorcycle leader pulled up to my front, we all had to smile. "Are we all on the same page now?" I asked. Both drivers bowed their heads to me as I blew two short blasts to let the British entourage continue west. My two wide-eyed divisional officers asked what happened. "Just another day on a traffic point," I smiled.
The testament we can write, which only the passage of time affords us, is the best teacher. The more time the stronger the testament. The Toronto Police Service (TPS) has wisely taken advantage of this past year to ensure a proper study of the actions and events of the 2010 G20. The report is a superb text with lessons to be shared with every police agency and officer in the country.
Between the covers of this 70 page document I found remarks highlighting all that was right about the planning of the event and a few things that went wrong. One gets the feeling the authors were determined to glean whatever knowledge they could from this remarkably unique event.
A total of 1,118 people were arrested during the summit; 39 reported being injured during their arrest. Ninety-seven police officers were hurt while carrying out their duties. No critical injuries or deaths occurred. Ten thousand officers were assigned to the G20 but there were only 286 complaints about their actions.
Toronto police kept up with calls for service from the city's three million people and staffed other special events, including the Toronto Jazz Festival and local World Cup soccer celebrations.
The key criticism remains the federal government's last-minute change of venue from the announced small-town of Huntsville to big city Toronto for the largest part of the event. It can only be viewed as the root of all negative issues. Upping the ante on Toronto with only six months notice can only be seen as trouble in the making.
"We owe it to the people we are sworn to serve and protect to take a hard look at ourselves," TPS Chief William Blair states in his forward to the report. This finished work pulls no punches and is worth studying.
Go to torontopolice.on.ca/publications to download the full report.