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(06/25/11) -

Torontonians Split on How the Police Dealt with G20 Summit Protests

While seven-in-ten respondents (73%) justified the actions of the TPS last year, the proportion has fallen to just two-in-five (41%) in 2011.

Residents of the City of Toronto are reassessing their views on the performance of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) during last year’s G20 summit demonstrations, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with the Toronto Star has found.

The online survey of a representative sample of 702 adult Torontonians also shows that considerably fewer respondents than last year support the actions of the TPS, that the city is divided over the use of the controversial “kettling” tactic to deal with protesters, and that a majority of residents support holding a comprehensive inquiry into the actions of the TPS.

Views on the Police

Overall, a majority of respondents in Toronto say they have “complete confidence” or “a lot of confidence” in the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) (64%), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) (57%), and the Toronto Police Service (TPS) (56%) to enforce the law, protect property and keep public order.

However, while only about one-in-four respondents claim that their confidence in the OPP (27%) and the RCMP (25%) has decreased over the course of the past year, 44 per cent of Torontonians say their confidence in the TPS is not as high now as it was before the G20 summit.

The Protests

The survey outlines a monumental shift in public perceptions of the performance of the TPS during the summit. In an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in June 2010, conducted immediately after the completion of the summit, seven-in-ten Torontonians (73%) said the actions of the TPS to deal with the demonstrations were justified. In the latest survey, only two-in-five respondents (41%) continue to side with the TPS on this matter, a 32-point drop in 12 months.

In fact, most Torontonians (54%) now believe that the reaction of the TPS to the demonstrations that took place last year was unjustified. Respondents aged 18-to-34 are more likely to criticize the TPS (57%).

Respondents look back at the demonstrations that took place during the summit with negative feelings, such as disgust (68%), anger (61%), shame (58%), and sadness (58%). In addition, 22 per cent of Torontonians felt fear, and 13 per cent articulated indifference.

Three-in-five Torontonians (75%) think it was a mistake to hold last year’s G20 summit in Toronto, and four-in-five (82%) would not like to see the city hosting another G20 meeting.

Impact

Two-in-five respondents in Toronto (39%) claim to have been personally impacted by last June’s G20 summit. Among this group of respondents, the main complaint is having to deal with road closures (65%), but one-in-five (20%) were caught up in protests, 14 per cent chose to leave Toronto during the event, six per cent participated in demonstrations, and two per cent suffered property damage.

These respondents were also asked about their interaction with police. While half of them (49%) report not having dealt with any officers during the summit, 27 per cent were redirected to a different area of the city, 19 per cent conversed with an officer, and 14 per cent were stopped at a traffic checkpoint.

Kettling

The TPS relied on a tactic called “kettling” on the last day of the G20 summit in Toronto. The tactic is used to contain a crowd within a limited area and aims at either preventing demonstrators from leaving or forcing them to exit in a manner determined by the officers on the ground.

Half of Torontonians (50%) believe the use of this tactic was unjustified, while two-in-five (43%) believe it was warranted. Once again, younger respondents are more likely to disagree with the course of action taken by the TPS (only 37% believe “kettling” was justified) compared to those aged 35-to-54 (44%) and those over the age of 55 (49%).

Investigations

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, an agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault, is looking into the allegations of police misconduct during the G20 summit. Overall, three-in-five Torontonians (60%) say they are “not too confident” or “not confident at all” in the Special Investigations Unit being able to hold police officers accountable for their actions.

Two thirds of respondents (67%) support holding a comprehensive public inquiry into the actions of the TPS during last year’s G20 summit. On this question, the responses are practically the same across all gender and age groups.

Finally, Torontonians are divided in the future of TPS Chief Bill Blair. While 37 per cent of respondents think Blair should resign, 43 per cent believe he should stay in his current position. Respondents who were personally impacted by the G20 last year are more likely to call for Blair’s ouster (46%) than those who were not personally impacted (32%).

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

CONTACT:

Jaideep Mukerji, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+514 409 0462
jaideep.mukerji@angus-reid.com

Methodology: From June 20 to June 22, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 702 randomly selected adults in the City of Toronto who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.7% for the entire sample. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the City of Toronto. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.