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Watchdog accuses officers of excessive force at G20

Adam Nobody poses in Queen's Park on November 29th, 2010, in the spot where he claims he was chased, arrested and then repeatedly beaten by police on Saturday, June 26th, 2010, during the G20 protests, in Toronto.

Ian Willms for The Globe and Mail/ian willms The Globe and Mail

Six months after one provincial police watchdog decided there wasn't enough evidence to lay criminal charges against several officers accused of beating G20 protester Adam Nobody, a different agency has ordered that five policemen face disciplinary hearings in the incident.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director concluded constables Michael Adams, Babak Andalib-Goortani, David Donaldson, Geoffrey Fardell and Oliver Simpson used excessive force after tackling Mr. Nobody to the ground.

The 174-page report of the investigation also offers a detailed description of the tireless efforts of one Toronto police investigator to identify colleagues who allegedly beat Mr. Nobody.

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While the 28-year-old stagehand praised the result, the police union launched a bid to block the charges, on the grounds that the investigation had taken too long.

"I'm happy that more truth is coming out," Mr. Nobody said Friday. "It's a great relief having the officers named and up for review."

The OIPRD, however, did not entirely absolve him. It accepted the statements of officers that Mr. Nobody was agitating a crowd of protesters on the lawn of Queen's Park in the early evening of June 26, 2010 and that he was reaching for a container that appeared to contain a flammable liquid. The report concluded police thus had a valid reason to arrest him.

Mr. Nobody, for his part, denied threatening police or resisting arrest. The liquid, he said, was just water mixed with a little whisky.

Because the investigation into the case lasted more than six months, the civilian board that oversees Toronto police must approve the start of disciplinary proceedings. Police union president Mike McCormack said his organization has asked it to quash the charges.

"This thing's almost two years old now and the officers have had it hanging over their heads," he said. "We still feel our officers did a great job during the G20 ... we stand behind them."

The Special Investigations Unit, another provincial body, charged Constable Andalib-Goortani with assaulting Mr. Nobody more than a year ago and investigated several other officers who were suspected of taking part. It concluded there was not enough evidence to charge them, in part because they refused to speak with SIU investigators.

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Unlike the SIU, the OIPRD does not have the power to lay criminal charges. But it can force officers to co-operate and much of the evidence in its report came from the men themselves.

Constables Adams, Andalib-Goortani, Donaldson and Simpson were part of a mobile squad policing the protests that day. At first, commanders at police headquarters ordered them to pull back as Black Bloc protesters rampaged along Yonge and College streets. When the crowd reached Queen's Park and began mingling with other protesters, the squad was sent there to make arrests.

Constable Daniel Lowe, who was part of a different unit, told investigators Mr. Nobody ignored orders to move back and stood on a driveway near the legislature, writing on a piece of Bristol board. When they decided to arrest him, Mr. Nobody fled.

Constable Lowe caught up with Mr. Nobody and tackled him, the momentum throwing the officer on his back and the protester on top of him. Several other officers raced up to help.

Video evidence detailed by the report says that Constables Fardell and Adams punched Mr. Nobody, and along with Constable Simpson, also kneed him. Constable Andalib-Goortani, who arrived after the others, was seen on video winding up his baton. Mr. Nobody suffered a broken nose and cheekbone.

The report cleared Constable Lowe. It also found no evidence to support charges against plainclothes officers Todd Storey and Luke Watson, whom Mr. Nobody alleges beat him further behind a van while hurling verbal abuse and challenging him to a fight.

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The OIPRD owes much of its success in identifying the policemen at the scene to acting Detective-Sergeant Chris Kirkpatrick, an investigator with the force's professional standards branch. He went over videos of the incident frame-by-frame, cross-referencing them with photographs and police deployment sheets, which listed officers assigned to the area that day.

In some cases, he picked out minor details to figure out who was who: Constable Adams, for instance, wore a distinctive carabiner on his belt; Constable Farrell wore long sleeves.

All five accused are front-line patrol officers. Constable Fardell is assigned to East York; the others are based out of suburban 31 division.

Constable Adams was involved in another controversial incident, the arrest of 18-year-old Junior Manon, seven weeks before the G20. Mr. Manon died of asphyxiation after a struggle with police.

A spokeswoman for the SIU said the agency received the OIPRD report Friday from reporters and was still considering whether to re-open its own criminal investigation based on the findings.

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About the Authors
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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