G20 policing: Clayton Ruby challenges ‘backroom decisions’ not to hold disciplinary hearings

Veteran civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby will ask Ontario’s Superior Court to overturn “backroom decisions” by three GTA police forces not to pursue complaints of officer misconduct during the G20 protests — even though the complaints have been substantiated by the province’s police oversight body.

Because the body, called the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), took longer than six months to investigate, it directed police in Toronto, York and Peel not to launch disciplinary hearings against officers involved — even though it found that accusations of excessive use of force, unlawful detention and arrest, and illegal search had substance.

The police chiefs decided to follow OIPRD’s advice not to act on its findings, even though it was OIPRD itself that caused the delay.

“They (the OIPRD) had no right to direct police chiefs not to pursue these complaints, which were utterly simple and should have taken 30 minutes to complete, not six months,” said Ruby, whose firm has launched a lawsuit with the support of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“This process is supposed to be a breath of daylight into these complaints, but they’ve shoved it into the backroom,” added Ruby, “where they have no need to explain their decisions and there is no accountability.”

He said the decision violates the Police Services Act.

The cases involve two protesters at the G20 summit in June 2011 in Toronto. One of them was University of Waterloo PhD student Luke Stewart, who had his backpack forcibly searched against his will before entering an anti-poverty meeting in Allan Gardens; an encounter captured on YouTube.

In the second case, a woman protester sitting on the road was grabbed by her backpack by police and shoved with enough force to cause extensive bruising to her knee, before being arrested and spending 24 hours in jail — a claim OIPRD found was substantiated and serious.

“In cases that take longer than six months, a chief of police can ask the police services board to allow disciplinary hearings to go ahead,” noted lawyer Abby Deshman, director of public safety programs for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“The oversight body (OIPRD) is effectively quashing these investigations because of its own delays, but its responsibility is actually to uphold police accountability.”