DiManno: G20 policing black eye isnít fading away

A photographer took this shot of Dorian Barton being dragged behind police lines by an officer at Queen's Park during the G20 Summit last June.

A photographer took this shot of Dorian Barton being dragged behind police lines by an officer at Queen's Park during the G20 Summit last June.

Rosie DiManno


The one-year anniversary of the G20 Summit policing fiasco will shortly be upon us.

Yet none of the half dozen internal and external inquiries into what went so disastrously wrong last June has been tabled yet. A police board inquiry wonít even start its hearings until next week.

Only a narrow investigation by Ontario ombudsman Andrť Marin that looked at the misapplication of an obscure security enhancement regulation under the Public Works Protection Act has seen the light of day.

And just one from among the many bullying, bushwhacking officers who assaulted peaceful protesters has been charged.

In cop lingo, the clearance rate is dismal.

Unless, of course, the intention was always to clear cops of wrongdoing by burying the G20 autopsies under a heap of paper-chase bureaucracy. But however much Premier Dalton McGuinty and Chief Bill Blair might wish it, this law-and-order shiner isnít going to fade away.

On Thursday, the Special Investigations Unit announced it has reopened a probe ó for the third time ó into one specific complaint of alleged police brutality, the beating of Dorian Barton.

SIU director Ian Scott does not score big points for that.

The pissing match between Scott and police spokesman Mark Pugash has been entertaining to watch. Itís almost like the old days when police board chair Susan Eng went mano-a-mano with then-chief Bill McCormack. McCormack, though, had no problem speaking for himself, if in tortuous McCormack-ese, and was always available to reporters. Blair, by comparison, has largely delegated the push-back to his communications pitbull. Who is actually running that asylum?

Somebody at the cop shop is ó how shall I put this delicately? ó lying. Actually, a whole bunch of officers would appear to be prevaricating over the no-see-um insistence on what happened to Barton in the incident wherein he was tackled to the ground, suffering a broken right arm, black eye, swollen limbs and bruised back.

Eleven witness officers ó count íem ó have told the SIU they were unable to identify the culprit in their midst, though eight were in the immediate vicinity of the incident and photographic evidence clearly shows a recognizable individual through his face shield. Further, as the Starís Dan Robson exclusively reported Thursday, Scott has learned that one from among the Group of Eleven was the suspect officerís G20 roommate and two others were supervisors who presumably knew the names of those under their command.

This isnít a whodunit mystery.

Indeed, as Pugash told the Star a week ago, the Toronto Police Service has on three occasions since January given the suspect officerís name to the SIU. The means by which he was IDíd, however, is a puzzle, insofar as that methodology is even relevant.

Pugash says the officerís handle was obtained by zooming in on the badge number and name in the photograph. Scott counters that he was unable to duplicate that feat, despite borrowing technology from the provinceís revenue ministry. (Why the revenue ministry would even have such technology is another matter entirely.)

Bartonís father tried also, employing a software program downloaded from the Toronto Police Service website, but came up empty too. So what is Pugash talking about? Thatís an issue which might be resolved now that the police have agreed to allow the SIU to interview the employee who performed the photo-identifying deed.

Yet this is a tangential diversion from the core of the matter: The SIUís prolonged unwillingness to charge the suspect officer on evidence that would sure as hell be good enough for police to charge a civilian. If there exists, as many suspect, one law for cops and one for the rest of us, Scott is just as guilty of adhering to it.

The SIU director continues to insist that a positive identification of the officer, by name, is essential for a charge to stand up in court. The ďloopíí, he posits, is insufficient to support a prosecution, though heís got a witness, photographer Andrew Wallace, who saw Barton being struck by that officer and is willing to testify in court.

Believe me. If I took a swing at, oh, letís say a traffic officer and someone standing by saw it, Iíd be in handcuffs lickety-split.

In recent off-the-record discussions Iíve had with legal experts, including Crown attorneys and a senior judge, not one has been able to fathom Scottís reasoning. Itís as if he wants this charge bubble-wrapped up in defence-proof binding.

Such a lofty standard is unfair to Barton and, frankly, further damages an agency that spends way too much time whining about what it canít do. The truth is, what it chooses not to do.

This isnít just about Barton anymore. Itís about the integrity of both the SIU and Torontoís police department.

Leave it for a judge or jury to decide if the charge is supportable on the evidence. Thatís not Scottís job.

I want a prosecutor to call all 11 witness officers to the stand so they can be asked, under oath, if they recognize the defendant as the person who struck Barton. I want to hear them, one by one, deny it. I want their names on the public record.

With the shell game some cops are playing right now, that feels even more vital than a conviction.

In the court of public opinion, let them be judged.

Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.