Policing the largest sporting event in Canadian history was a monumental task, requiring the efforts, dedication and drive of thousands of law enforcement professionals.
The 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games were awarded to Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe area in 2009. The Ontario government was responsible for oversight and assigned the OPP to prepare, plan and be the accountable lead for overall security.
The OPP created the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) in 2010 and Supt. Mike McDonell took on the immense task of leading it in 2013. His extensive leadership and law enforcement experiences and associations would prove to be key to its strength.
Important to the planning of any major event is setting out your "mission," an overarching principal that guides every pillar, action and plan. The ISU mission for the 2015 Games was to "Provide a safe and secure environment for the conduct of the (games)... while maintaining an open, accessible and authentic experience for athletes and attendees."
We set forward with this leading principle to plan and implement security for the largest ever Canadian sporting event. For perspective, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the previous record holder, had approximately 6,500 athletes and officials. Approximately 10,000 athletes and officials attended the 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games.
Events from the recent past – including the 2010 G8/G20 Summit, 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and the October 2014 ISIS inspired attacks on Canadian military personnel – were on the minds of the ISU command as it deliberated security planning and implementation.
The ISU had dedicated representation from the RCMP and Durham, Halton, Toronto, Niagara, Peel, York, Hamilton and South Simcoe police services from the early stages. Many other agencies were involved as key partners, including Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The ISU was broken down into pillars: planning, logistics, traffic, torch relay, joint intelligence group, accreditation, security, finance and specialized field resources. Technology and innovation were the vanguard. Each municipal agency had representation/input within these pillars to address its needs for security measures. Toronto police dominated the need for resources and planning because the city had more than half the venues.
Technology and innovation offered efficient, thorough and fiscally prudent ways to handle many of the tasks and challenges. A great example of this was the Virtual Unified Command Centre (UCC), which allowed municipal services to consolidate command resources remotely within their jurisdiction, a format not previously attempted. This allowed command level interaction and the instantaneous sharing of relevant information.
Coordination with the eight municipal police agencies and TO2015 (the Games organizing group) was critical to integrating the planning efforts and security measures at all venues. Many of the planning challenges were addressed at the Joint Operations Planning Group (JOPG), which brought together all ISU partners to discuss planning, resources and implementation. These monthly meetings were often spirited, but the challenges encountered were constructive, as all strived to provide the best service for their area of responsibility.
One of the largest challenges to the ISU partners was the Games Route Network (GRN), 770 kilometres of roadway identified and prepared for the Games. The network of highways crossed all eight police jurisdictions, connecting approximately 5,300 square kilometres of the Games footprint. The GRN efficiently linked the athletes/officials to their venues, minimized impact to the regular motoring public and emphasized traffic safety.
Coordinating efforts, priorities, agendas, messaging and protocols around the GRN with all the police services, provincial and municipal agencies at the table was challenging. These challenges were mitigated by the professionalism and dedication of those around the table.
Another enormous task was processing and issuing accreditation passes. The Accreditation Security Validation Team did the security screening checks for everyone needing access in and around the venues during games time. This included athletes, officials, games family, volunteers, venue staff, security, maintenance, torch relay runners and the police.
The Accreditation Unit, headed up by the RCMP, ended up doing well over 125,000 individual checks. The importance, accuracy and security of the accreditation passes was elevated since many passes also acted as visas into Canada for foreign athletes, officials and their team entourage.
Our work with TO2015 was constructive on many fronts but also presented some challenges. In simplistic terms it was understood early on that TO2015 personnel knew how to organize sporting events and we were experts in policing major events. The challenges experienced revolved around balancing the expertise of both sides so that the Games were open and accessible while not compromising security. Many of the challenges were mitigated by the early establishment of a police liaison officer to TO2015 and the development of key relationships between the ISU and TO2015.
The torch relay was another large component of the Games. The 15 officer ISU Torch Relay team was dedicated to providing security to the volunteer relay runners and the Pan/Parapan Am Flame. This was no simple task for this joint force unit, as the flame travelled 41 days straight for the Pan Am Relay and five consecutive days for the Parapan Am Relay. It trekked through more than 130 communities across Ontario, covering approximately 150-200 kilometres a day, rain or shine, without incident.
The Specialized Field Resource (SFR) unit consisted of several different tactical units and was instrumental in coordinating and assisting security sweeps of venues and the countless number of buses used by athletes and officials. Knowing the current threat level of countries and aware of past events, tactical readiness was important. The Toronto Police Service TPS was helpful in providing a first-rate downtown location for the SFR officers to stage.
The Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) and its participating partners were pivotal in developing security overlay and posture. The extensive work of JIG and its partners allowed the ISU Command to make timely, informed decision on a daily basis. Information and intelligence gathering is always time consuming and sensitive work but the operational and analytical joint forces units worked exceptionally well together to meet their goals.
The Integrated Community Liaison unit was important in connecting with the communities, businesses and stakeholders that would be affected by the games. Taking the time to ensure accurate information about security, minimizing impact and being available to community was important to the ISU and its partners.
The Logistics units had the daunting tasks of coordinating staffing, equipment, facilities, lodging and food for officers throughout the games. It was vital to not only ensuring the health, safety and well-being of officers but also making sure they had the equipment and training needed to do their job. This task was further complicated by the daunting 5,300 square kilometre footprint of the Games.
Staffing venues and the GRN was no easy task. Each ISU police agency dedicated large numbers of resources to staff their venues and the GRN while maintaining regular policing services within their city or region. These resources included venue patrols, traffic units and numerous specialty units on duty around the clock to prevent and respond to incidents expeditiously in order to minimize impact to the Games, athletes and attendees. The TPS alone had to cover off over 40,000 shift assignments.
The Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games were a success all around. From a police perspective, the end result could not have been much better. The athletes and the events were the stars and the ISU was proud to support their endeavors. The ISU raised the bar for major event policing in the technology and techniques utilized, as well as the size and scope of the security measures for such a vast footprint.
A/S/Sgt. Stuart Bertram Intelligence & Information Management Team Lead Integrated Community Liaisons Lead ISU - Pan/Parapan Am Games