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Toronto police say Pan Ams won’t be G20 all over again

Board promises better coordinated, more locally run security for Pan Am Games.
May 27, 2015
By Patty Winsa

Const. Craig Brister is standing in front of a small crowd of business owners in the St. Lawrence Centre on Toronto’s Esplanade, assuring them that the Pan Am Games will not be another G20 when it comes to policing.

“As soon as we start talking about all these extra officers that will be in town and all this extra security, people immediately get this idea of G20 in their mind,” says Brister, an officer seconded from 32 Division to serve as the Toronto Police Service’s business and community liaison for the Games.

“This is a sporting event,” he says. “This is family, front row. That’s the big thing we’re trying to push. But at the same time there needs to be a security component.”

That means a heightened police presence around venues, not only to secure them but to enforce no-standing zones and street closings.

It also means there will be police sweeps, beginning June 26 in areas such as the Pan Am Athletes Village, the 14-hectare fenced-in area in the Canary District - which is next door to the Distillery District, one of the Games’ three festival sites.

Brister says he hates the term “police sweeps,” and it shouldn’t be misinterpreted.

“Officers are getting trained to do security checks,” says Brister. “They tour the venues when we take possession of them. They also tour them during the Games. What they’re looking for is the obvious - security problems, gaps in the security, safety issues - anything that’s going to affect game play or spectator safety.”

But the heightened security won’t mean a repeat of G20, agrees police board chair Alok Mukherjee.

The 2010 summit was marred by overzealous policing by multiple forces, including arbitrary searches of people carrying backpacks or wearing bandanas. A report by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director said many officers “ignored the basic rights citizens have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Earlier this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal said that officers from York Region Police breached the Charter rights of a group of G20 demonstrators who were forced to submit to a search before they were allowed near the security fence.

Yes, there's a fence but that's where the similarity between the 2010 G20 summit and the Games should end. The G20 fence formed a distant perimeter around the Metro Convention Centre to keep protesters away from where world leaders were meeting. The Pan Am fence is there to ensure the athletes, coaches and support staff are safe. Use the slider to see security plans, then and now.