Sense of Deception

Police practise for G20 summit by simulating hostage taking


Protecting visitors to the downtown summit will involve collaboration between public and private security

Siri Agrell

From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Apr. 19, 2010 12:56AM EDT Last updated on Sunday, Apr. 25, 2010 11:25PM EDT

Weekend workaholics attempting to reach their downtown office towers Sunday got the first hint of the disruption that will be caused by this summer’s G20 summit in Toronto, as tactical officers took over part of the underground PATH system for a training exercise.

The concourse level of Commerce Court was the scene of a simulated hostage taking, with officers from Toronto Police Emergency Task Force partnering with the building’s private security staff.

Deputy Chief Kim Derry said the exercise, which saw officers shooting blank rounds as well as a type of ammunition similar to paint balls, was designed to train police and security guards on how to communicate through a shared radio system.

The G20 will “test our ability to work in concert” with the private sector, he said. “On a Sunday, it’s very easy because there’s nobody here. But during the weekdays, there’s literally hundreds of thousands of people in this area.”

The G20 meeting takes place at the nearby Metro Convention Centre on June 26-27, and is expected to bring 15,000 dignitaries and journalists to the city, as well as a throng of protesters. More than 5,000 police officers are expected to be on duty throughout the event.

Deputy Chief Derry said private security guards at the city’s office towers, condo buildings and tourist sites are considered an important factor in crowd control and emergency response.

“There’s only so many police officers but there’s lots of private security,” he said. “If private citizens see things they can report it to the private sector and the private sector has a communication network now with us and they can pass it on.”

Sunday’s simulation was closely observed by more than 100 people, including building managers, City of Toronto officials and representatives of private security companies. The fire department and Emergency Medical Services were also on scene.

It was the first time police have staged a simulated operation in a downtown office building, said Deputy Chief Derry.

Police officers are seen through the window in Commerce Court in Toronto during a large-scale police training exercise.

The doors to Commerce Court were locked and the underground pathway connecting a maze of downtown buildings was inaccessible.

“It’s kind of annoying,” said one investment banker trying to make his way to Brookfield Place. “I walk through the underground every day and no one’s ever stopped me before.”

Chris Fernandes, of the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy rapid response Team, said police have been increasing their partnerships with private security forces in an effort to better contend with modern threats.

“It gives us thousands more eyes on the street to help us look for people we may want to find and help us do our policing,” he said.

Adam Vaughan, city councillor for the area, said residents should be prepared for an influx of security from all directions.

“Beyond the 5,000 federal, provincial and city police officers that will be around, there probably will be a significant amount of private security to supplement some of the more functionary duties,” he said. “You have to figure out how to do that because those agencies won’t necessarily be accustomed to the scope of the exercise.”

A federal “letter of interest” published at the end of March on a public tender website requested bids for airport-style security at various checkpoints throughout Toronto.

“The contractor will be required to provide approximately 1,030 security screening personnel to perform pedestrian screening in designated areas,” the letter read.

The tender did not say where the guards would be stationed, but said they would be outfitted with “Magnetometers,” “walk-through metal detectors,” “X-Ray belt driven scanners” and “hand-held metal detectors.”

Mr. Vaughan said he was encouraged to see that Toronto Police are already training with private security to deal with the G20, but said many questions remain about how the summit will impact the city and its residents.


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