Ottawa Witness Group

Ottawa Police Response to Community Questions about G8 Policing - October 30, 2002


The Ottawa Police Service is pleased to make public these responses to questions raised during community meetings held to discuss the policing of major events associated with meetings of G8 leaders earlier this summer.

Looking back, police officers on the job during the G8 related demonstrations did a commendable job; no one suffered serious injury and very little property was damaged.

Credit for this positive outcome is due, at least in part, to a new approach the Ottawa Police Service brought forward to ensure public and officer safety during major events. Individual police officers brought this commitment to life during G8 events; the responsible and respectful conduct of citizens who participated in these events contributed as well.

The safety of our community is an issue that cuts to the core of values we all cherish. Working together, we can strengthen and celebrate our shared value for a safe and open community.

1. Will police destroy videotape of G8 protests that is not being used in civil or criminal court cases?

The short answer is yes. The Police Service does store videotapes and related material collected following a major event. The tapes are recycled into use for subsequent incidents and some portions of  tapes are used for internal training purposes. Videotaping is done as part of the process of collecting evidence for specific incidents and at crime scenes. Tapes are routinely held until ongoing court cases and appeals are completed.

2. Why was the MELT Team pulled off the squat at 246 Gilmour Street?

The Major Events Liaison Team (MELT) is a team of officers dedicated to establishing and maintaining open communications with event planners, leaders and organizers. Their mission is to ensure event security plans are formulated in consultation with event organizers and to facilitate support mechanisms. MELT will be present during a major event to maintain the liaison between police and event organizers and participants.

Seven days following the conclusion of major G8 events, the occupation of 246 Gilmour Street was deemed to be outside the mandate of MELT. At the time, the occupants of 246 Gilmour Street were made aware that MELT members were removing themselves.

3. Why was 90 seconds of pepper spray used on one occupant of the squat at 246 Gilmour Street?

Oleoresin capsicum (OC) aerosol (known by the more popular term of 'pepper spray') is a provincially regulated use of force option. Since 1992 the Province of Ontario has authorized the use of OC as an intermediate response tool (in the same category as the expandable baton). On the use of force continuum, use of OC is appropriate when empty hand and verbal (tactical communication) techniques are either ineffective or unsafe. Oleoresin Capsicum causes no permanent injury, is 100% organically based, biodegradable and water soluble.

During the eviction process, OC aerosol was utilized to facilitate the removal of the house occupants after numerous requests for them to leave peacefully. Based on previous structural inspections conducted by the City of Ottawa, and the existing order to comply, police had serious doubts about the structural integrity of portions of the house. In one particular instance, the increasing presence of occupants on an upper floor balcony caused an already unsafe situation to become even more so.

OC aerosol was used to gain control in order to clear the balcony and prevent the possible collapse of the structure and potential serious injuries.

4. If one police spokesman said tear gas was not necessary because the police now used videotape, is videotaping not intimidation?

The use of video technology is not intended to intimidate. Videotaping is done as part of the process of collecting evidence for specific incidents and at crime scenes.

The courts expect the police to make use of all available means to gather potential evidence to the extent that court cases, inquest hearings and public inquiries can be affected.

To the best of our knowledge, officers involved in the official release of information to the media did not make these comments.

5. Why couldn't Third Party mediators have been used at the squat at 246 Gilmour Street?

Mediation is a conflict resolution tool that is being used more often in the Police Service. Mediation is used in situations where both parties are willing to participate fully and is commonly conducted in a location that is considered neutral by those involved. The process is time consuming since both parties need to gain trust and explore areas for mutual agreement and compromise. It was determined that mediation was not an appropriate mechanism under the circumstances at 246 Gilmour Street.

The Ottawa Police Service will continue to develop and utilize mediation as well as other conflict resolution strategies where appropriate. The Service will incorporate this suggestion in subsequent work on the Agenda for Excellence.

6. What was the cost of the eviction at the squat at 246 Gilmour Street?

The Ottawa Police Service does not have a systemic process to cost each and every incident. The situation at 246 Gilmour Street involved Police, Fire, Emergency Medical and other City services.

Significant resources were used to maintain a safe and secure environment for the eviction process given the high density location in the downtown core.

7. Is there an enforceable policy of police wearing ID or not?

The short answer is yes. Members of the Ottawa Police Service in regular uniform must wear name tags. The same policy exists with the RCMP. This internal policy is enforced by way of the discipline provisions of the Police Services Act.

Community feedback concerning Public Order Unit officers not being identifiable during the G20 demonstrations did result in all those officers wearing identifiers in Ottawa for the G8, irrespective of their originating police service.

In addition all officers from the many services working during the G8 were briefed on the importance of wearing identification during the event.

Nevertheless The Police Services Act and Regulations (Ontario) do not make the wearing of name tags mandatory and, as a result, some of the police services supporting the G8 security in Ottawa were not outfitted with these identifiers.

8. How can riot police - even those out of direct sight - be considered to be contributing to peaceful policing?

Police services are required under the Police Services Act, to provide effective and adequate policing services. In the case of major events, this involves having appropriate resources to restore peace in order to protect community safety where the need arises.

The clear message sent by the community in a variety of forums, including the Police Services' own internal review and the Citizens' Panel, was that Public Order Units (POU) should not be visibly deployed unless required. Frequent mention was made of returning to past practice where POU's would be maintained in relatively close proximity and yet out of sight of demonstrations. This was done for the two days of G8 events in Ottawa.

9. Why was the police videotaping so obtrusive and aggressive, even interfering with the march on June 26 and June 27?

Again, in response to community consultations where concerns were expressed about covert video taping and photography, teams of identifiable Police videographers were deployed. The intent was to conduct this necessary element of the event (see Questions 1 & 4) in an open and transparent manner. The fact that police would be videotaping the two-day event was repeated at each of the public meetings hosted by MELT leading up to the G8.

There was criticism of the manner in which the videotaping was accomplished and this feedback will be used in the further development of the Agenda for Excellence.

10. Why was the demonstrators' sound van almost towed away in the middle of a demonstration?

The van was never close to being removed. The arrival of a sound van was neither anticipated nor planned for. Front line officers responded to the situation as a potential threat to the safety of participants.

The situation would have been avoided if police planners had been notified of organizers intention to use a van. The intent of the Open Lines approach to the event was for MELT and event organizers to work together to facilitate safety and reduce the number of surprise elements.

This situation was resolved with the help of a positive intervention by members of the MELT team. The van remained in the march and MELT members offered to assist with a more effective placement of the vehicle.

11. What was the hurry to evict squatters from a derelict, abandoned building?

As was mentioned in response to Question 2, the occupation of the privately-owned premises lasted almost eight days. The premises was structurally suspect at the outset and with the increasing numbers, the safety of the occupiers was of paramount concern. As time went on, fires were lit inside the house and gas generators were brought in heightening concerns for occupier safety as well as the safety of the residents of the apartment building adjacent to 246 Gilmour Street.

Although the property was not occupied prior to June 26th, it still represented private property and the owner was making ever increasing demands for the removal of the illegal occupiers. The Police Service made many requests for the occupiers to leave the premises, all of which were ignored.

12. Why did police refuse to say who their commanding officer was?

The Police Service has never refused to release that information. There are appropriate processes in place to obtain that particular information.

The answer to that seemingly simple question is not that easy depending on the context. Front line police officers approached on the street will respond that their commander is the squad sergeant or the staff sergeant who deployed them to their operational stations on that particular day.

While some officers might not be in a position to respond to all questions during an event given their assigned duties, inquiries can always be directed to the MELT officers who are onsite and whose assignment includes dealing with questions raised by organizers, participants and the general public.

The actual operational command for the Ottawa portion of June 26 and 27 was a unified structure consisting of ranking officers from the Ottawa Police, RCMP, and the Ontario Provincial Police. These officers were rotated to maintain effectiveness over the course of the two day event.

The officer responsible for the operational plan for the Ottawa Police portion of the events was Superintendent Pat Hayes. Superintendent Hayes spent several months managing a planning team of officers and civilian members to provide a comprehensive plan that took into account feedback from the community and security agencies after the G20. This consultative approach resulted in a strategy that was universally lauded as an effective way to police a peaceful major event.

Superintendent Hayes was also the designated Ottawa Police operational commander for the G8 events of June 26 and 27, 2002.

13. Why the videotaping of street medics and Witnesses?

For an explanation of the need for police services to employ videotaping, please refer to Questions 1, 4 and 9. The officers were not specifically targeting the street medics and Witnessers. The medics and Witnessers were usually in close proximity to the protests.

14. When 'everybody knows'*, why use a video camera?

Again, please see responses to questions 1, 4 and 9.

15. Why weren't Chief Bevan, Jacques Legendre, and other members of the Police Services Board here at the meeting tonight (July 17)?

After the November 2001 G20 protests, Chief Bevan designated Deputy Chief Larry Hill to lead the Agenda for Excellence and the accompanying discussions and consultations. Based on reports from Deputy Chief Hill, Chief Bevan has reported on the issues and the progress of the Agenda for Excellence to the Police Services Board.

16. If witnesses were removed from the squat at 246 Gilmour Street because police said "pepper spray could require medical attention", why was pepper spray used in the first place?

Please see the response to Question 3. Bystanders are kept back for several reasons including the need to secure the scene for safety and evidentiary purposes.

The potential use of oleoresin capsicum aerosol by police requires the associated responsibility to provide decontamination treatment to reduce undo exposure time.

Failure to adequately secure the perimeter may indirectly expose more people to the effects of the aerosol.

17. Why were occupants of 246 Gilmour Street who were pepper-sprayed and then arrested not given medical attention?

Oleoresin capsicum decontamination facilities were provided in the event of deployment. Both Ottawa Emergency Medical Services and Fire Department personnel and equipment were present during the eviction process at 246 Gilmour Street. All but one of the evicted occupiers refused the available decontamination treatment at the scene.

18. Police responsibility for major actions during political demonstrations can go only so far. Beyond that limit, there's political responsibility - when will the city councilors, Police Services Board and the federal government answer questions and be accountable for police policy?

This question is best addressed to the bodies and individuals in question. The Police Services Board is responsible for setting Service policy. In the case of the recent major events, the Agenda for Excellence is the process endorsed by the Police Services Board leading to recommendations for modifications to existing policies.

19. If police need collaboration, and members of the Witness Group can't do that because of their mandate, who can police collaborate with?

The Ottawa Police Service is willing and interested to work with everyone in the community we serve in order to ensure safety for all. This includes protest organizers, community groups, businesses, participants and bystanders. This of course also includes collaborating with the Witness Group.

This commitment is at the core of the Agenda for Excellence and underlined by the setting up of the Major Events Liaison Team which is tasked with establishing and maintaining effective communication between the Police Service and all stakeholders.

We suggest that most issues are best raised either during pre-event planning or in the context of a post-event process that we would be pleased to establish. Our concern is to ensure that safety problems during events are not caused or magnified by additional demands being placed on individual police service members attempting to fulfill their assigned duties.

20. Why were individual protesters followed by police after the demos and given jaywalking tickets?

More information on this specific issue is required before the Police Service can provide a response.

21. When occupants of 246 Gilmour Street went to a nearby address on Gilmour by invitation of the police in order to reclaim their possessions, why were they accused of violating two conditions of their bail?

At this time, no charges of violating release conditions have been laid in relation to charged persons attending the area of 246 Gilmour Street. The owner of the house turned over property to the Police after the eviction. Arrangements were made for the property to be returned to the property owners and their representatives at Police Headquarters - 474 Elgin St.

22. Under what authority did you close off the area around 246 Gilmour Street?

The entire street was closed based on the ancillary powers provided under Canadian Common Law to police for the purposes of community and officer safety, and evidence preservation.