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Police board chair apologizes to lawful G20 protesters

Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee, shown in 2006.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The chair of the Toronto Police Services Board apologized to lawful G20 protesters Thursday at a meeting where the civilian board considered recommendations contained in a report that found the board could have exercised more oversight of the force.

"Innocent people had their rights abridged, their liberty interfered with and their physical safety jeopardized," Chair Alok Mukherjee said, reading from a statement.

Not all policing during the summit two years ago was within a framework that respected rights, he said.

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"For that I am sorry," he said. "I extend a very personal apology to those who, though innocent and engaged in lawful and peaceful activities, suffered as a result of the transgressions and failures."

Mr. Mukherjee made his comments before the board voted on whether to approve in principle and start working on the 38 recommendations in a report it commissioned from former associate chief justice of Ontario John Morden.

On Thursday, the board approved the recommendations either in principle or to be sent to a working group, except for one. That recommendation says that the police board should have its own legal counsel, which wouldn't be available to the police service.

That recommendation will be reviewed by Mr. Mukherjee and he will report back to the board by October on potential financial implications. The same deadline has been set for the chair and working groups to report back on implementing the other recommendations.

Among the report's findings were that police failed to stop a riot during the summit because they were focused on guarding the security fence around the meeting site.

Toronto police also had only four months to prepare for the specific location of the meeting, Mr. Morden wrote, because that's when the federal government selected the downtown Metro Convention Centre. Mr. Morden said police would usually have two years to prepare for such a large security operation.

The civilian board also could have reviewed the force's plans more thoroughly, the report found.

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Former vice chair of the board, Councillor Pam McConnell, said she welcomed the recommendations, saying that the force will need to be better prepared for other large events including the 2015 Pan Am Games.

"It's remarkable that... as many things went right as they did," she said.

Some deputants at the meeting suggested Mr. Mukherjee and Chief Bill Blair ought to resign because of the report's findings.

Mr. Mukherjee told reporters, as he left the meeting, that he never considered resigning and that the decision to apologize was his alone.

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