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06/03/2010

A peek inside the G20 war chest

CO-G20Demo07 The summit's Integrated Security Unit demonstrates what Torontonians can expect to see during the G20 this June. Photo: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star

In an impressive show of strength this morning, the G20's Integrated Security Unit (ISU) showcased the myriad officers, resources and equipment in its arsenal for the G20 summit.

When it came to law enforcement personnel, it was the whole kit and caboodle: there were cops on bikes, cops on horseback, cops with riot gear, cops with German Shepherds, and yes, even cops with the LRADs, or long range acoustic devices (the so-called sound cannons). There were units from the Canadian Forces, Peel Police, Toronto Police, Ontario Provincial Police, the city's Emergency Task Force  and the province's CBRN response team (which reacts to threats of the chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear kind).

The ISU held its "technical briefing" for media at the Toronto Police College at 70 Birmingham St. Reporters and camera crews were asked to stand behind a metal barrier as the various police and army units flexed their muscles and demonstrated what Torontonians "may be exposed to and experience during the summit." 

Here is what we saw:

Motorcades: Reports have estimated there will be as many as 83 motorcades during the summit, each of which could involve 10 to 50 cars. The motorcades are sure to snarl traffic from June 24 to 27 as dignitaries move between Pearson Airport, the G8 in Huntsville and the G20 at Toronto's Metro Convention Centre.

In the demo, each VIP vehicle was book-ended by police cruisers and officers on motorcycles. Several other police officers also rode ahead to block off roads for the motorcades to pass through. It was a highly choreographed affair and as the motorcade prepared to drive away, the officer at the front commanded "Fire 'em up" into his headset and each vehicle gunned its engine nearly in unison.

Crowd control: The police response to an escalating crowd seems to happen in stages.

In the demonstration, eight police officers on bicycles rode in formation and lined up to create a human barricade. Next, a riot squad marched in with its shields up and stood behind the officers with bicycles in two perpendicular rows, creating a kind of u-shaped formation. Riot police on horseback then followed and stood at the back; according to Const. Wendy Drummond, the mounted police units will be deployed 24 hours a day during the summit for crowd management purposes.

The police officers on bicycles then proceeded to lift their front wheels as riot officers moved to the front. It was at this point that two officers used a "handheld" LRAD device to communicate their message to the imaginary crowd:

"This is the Toronto Police Service. I'm asking you to vacate to your right in an orderly fashion down Birmingham St."

LRADs: Police emphasized that their four recently purchased LRADs are not weapons and will be used as a communication devices, with the alert function deployed for no more than five seconds as a way of getting people's attention. Police say they will use the alert function if necessary but will not deploy it on crowds or protesters standing 10 metres away.

Of the four LRADs purchased by Toronto police, three are the 100X model. These versions can reach amplitudes of 135 decibels for anyone standing one metre in front of the device; they are referred to as the handheld models but really look more like black backpacks worn on the front.

Two officers are required to operate the LRADs -- one who wears the device and a "public order commander" who speaks into the microphone and determines at what strength to calibrate the alerts. Police say 24 officers are currently being trained to use the LRADs.

The first demonstration of the LRAD was only at half-strength, about 70 dB, and the sound was underwhelming at best. I could barely even hear it from about 20 metres away and had to move closer to the device in order to hear the messages being broadcast. 

Police officers demonstrated the LRADs a second time, however, this time dialling the volume to full strength and standing at a distance of about one city block away. This time, they spoke into the loudspeaker while panning the LRAD from side to side because the device creates a "tunnel" of sound -- when the LRADs point away from you the noise is actually quite muted. When you stand in its path, however, it is like having a speaker right up against your ear.

During the full-strength demonstration, the alert was also sounded for a few seconds at full force. It was a loud blip that was irritating and jarring, making a few reporters jump. The sound was certainly piercing but tolerable; however, if it were to run for longer than five seconds, it would certainly become less than bearable.


Special operations: The Toronto Police Emergency Task Force (ETF) has eight special weapons teams, complete with negotiators, snipers, sniper spotters, rappel experts and CBRN-certified officers that can respond to hazardous materials, bomb threats and the like. The Emergency Task Force units will be located within the "interdicted zone" just outside the RCMP-controlled summit site.

Staff Insp. Dave Marks wouldn't disclose how many ETF officers will be working at the summit but confirmed the force has about 100 officers in total. Its marine unit, which will have the larger 300x LRAD at its disposal, will be patrolling the lake to potentially "assault other vessels," according to Marks.

The Ontario Police will also have its Urban Search and Rescue and CBRN teams working at the summits, with about 24 trained officers across the two units. Among its capabilities are:

  • "Obstruction removal" -- protesters often use machinery to lock themselves to trucks, railways or even ships, and a specialized team will be on hand to dislodge and remove them.
  • Rescue -- in the event of a large structural collapse, a rescue team, complete with three dog handlers, will be available for search and rescue missions.
  • Hazardous materials response -- travelling CBRN units will be equipped with everything from $500,000 bomb-disarming robots to portable labs for testing hazardous substances.

K-9 units: Toronto police will have 22 dog handlers with 34 police dogs at its disposal. The Belgian Shepherd Malinois and German Shepherds are trained to do everything from detecting explosives and firearms to "criminal apprehension."

Canadian Forces: The Canadian Forces' contingent for the G20 will be mainly stationed at Pearson where it will conduct foot patrols with other units, mostly from Peel Police. Soldiers will be be dressed in full fatigues and armed with C7A1 rifles for self defence, according to public affairs officer Captain John-Hugh MacDonald.

"(Soldiers will) provide surveillance and observe, and provide early warning to law enforcement," he said.

EMS and Fire Services: It will be all hands on deck for Toronto EMS during the summit as all staff has been asked not to book vacation during the G20 week. There will be EMS buses available to respond to mass injuries -- these vehicles are capable of holding eight people on stretchers although some can be converted into seating to accommodate more patients. The bus is meant to serve as a large ambulance but can also be converted to a field hospital, if necessary.

In the event of a mass contamination, like tear gas contaminations, EMS will be operating inside the "cold zone" -- because tear gas can be passed from person to person, exposed victims should be decontaminated before entering an ambulance to be taken to hospital. 

The fire department will be operating in the "hot zone" however, and serve as the first responders to tear gas victims. Captain Bill Casey said the fire department has mobile tents it can set up in the event of tear gas contaminations.

Comments

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Who authorized this excessive use of public funds???? The last G20 ran up in the low 300millions? Who's responsible for the buying everything and anything possible on the market for this security? Obama is coming with his own security of 1000men. What about the rest of the 19? How much of their own security are they all bringing? What the hell are we doing? Are our politicians out to outdo the last one on our expense. Over 1 Billion and counting being sent of our hard earn money and painfully given to this out of control government for 3 days. 10000 RCMP officers coming into town, that's 500 officers for each G guy for security they should all be falling on each others.
Gastly abuse of the public purse, disgusting representation from our politicians all for what???? What's going to be solved. The Volcano eruption alone put all our efforts for climate change back to the dark ages. We should all rise up and protest the massive spending.

Why do you think that this arses arsenal is needed in a free country?

It seems that those in the G20 have much to fear from us commoners as they continue to bankrupt every nation on earth with their bogus banking crap.

Shame on you at the Star for making this BS look legitimate.

Okay. So we should have the world leaders come to our country which is considered one of the best on Earth and have them fear for their safety. Are you upset that this money isnt being spent on YOU. This is how it works. Some people and some events are beyond your understanding. Its the idiots like you that they need to protect from. Those who feel everything is a conspiracy and everything is broken. The world is EXTREMELY complicated and now that everyone can get information not enough people have the gray matter to comprehend what is going on. You are the sheep the masses that these leaders act on behalf of. They have to make decisions for you because your too stupid to make them on your own. If everyone just got along than we wouldnt this but there are alot of anarchists, rebellious chaotic protestors. There are also normal protestors and if there were ONLY normal protestors they would probably setup a barricade fence with a few officers to make sure noone moved it and that would be that. But since you idiots want to always make a point by doing what? Storming places and acting like hooligans this is what needs to happen. You have to look at the BIG picture. But like I said most people's brains are too puny to get it.

The conservative government love hosting these types of events. It requires lots of security and allows them to equip either the military or police forces with lots of new toys.

i am sure the police brass are happy too, it is like christmas for them

Everyone is complaining about the money, But i'm of the opposite opinion. I'd rather spend the money now, and feel safe, as opposed to not amping up security and letting terrorists walk in. I do think terrorism could be a real threat to this G20 meeting and I'm glad our security is being taken seriously.

For a billion dollars - and I don't think I'm exaggerating very much here - they could have had the G20 on the moon.

When did Canada become a police state?

Too much fascism.

To all the politicos responsible for this insanity: Why don't you hold your next G20 on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. No 1 billion price tag, no protesters, no security issues. Just stop all this nonsensense already. Stop wasting our tax dollars.

Is this for real?
Next time they should just parade their weapons down Yonge St. atop of tanks with flags waving and the national anthem playing.
$1 billion + of tax payer money used to turn Toronto into a police state.
Wonderful.

I find it ridiculous that Harper et al can come in and shut down the city without more fully consulting its citizens. At first I didn't understand the scope of the G20's intrusion into the city, and really didn't have much interest in debating it. But this is insane!!! I'll definitely be protesting now, and encourage others to do the same! Thanks Harper for waking me up to how unconcerned the G20 is with ordinary people!

Yes, all these weapons, securities and polices are coming to GTA because 9 people are coming. Why don't they just stay at their respective countries and chat online?

In this age of technology, it sounds ridiculous to have leaders travel for meeting. It's a security risk and strain on the host country. Why can't they do web conferencing like most of the organizations.

Still, how can this POSSIBLY cost a billion dollars? What, are there batons made of gold and their little shields made of diamond? Methinks somebody's got their hand in the cookie jar. Or possibly a very large truck in the cookie jar.

Is Jennifer Yang the author of this story? Is it the Star editorial board? Or perhaps it's an advertorial from the OPP/Canadian Forces? Why is this not attributed to anyone?

I hope we all realize that the protesters that the police fear are Canadian citizens who have a guaranteed right to protest. Those who will be subjected to sound cannons and tear gas and arbitrary arrest will be neighbours, friends and community members.

We all have a right to take to the streets and voice our opinion as part of the democratic process. When police see protesters as terrorists we all lose our democracy.

A sickening display: politicians flaunting abuse of power and misuse of funds; the police all too eager to use their new gadgets. I hope the city burns and shame falls upon us all--that is the only way this madness will end.

Why don't they meet at a secret location somewhere in the world where it won't affect anyone. If Bush can do a surprise visit to Afganistan on Christmas then I'm pretty sure these politicians can meet up somewhere in secrecy. The more public they make the event the more it costs for the security of the event. Well its not there money so I don't think they care. 1 B for security is a total waste.

This is a disgusting way to prepare for a protest. When did protest and freedom get separated from one another? Last I checked, organized peaceful protest was one of the rights of the people.

Now they are trying to tell us where protests can take place? We need a shakeup at the top.

Oh c'mon...it's cool. I'd much rather this than have another Seattle...

I agree, what a load of crock. They whine about how much we owe and blah blah blah, people losing jobs, we can't pay our debt, etc. Then they go and spend SO MUCH money so that people who can't go to Muskoka for the summit will have a Muskoka brought to them! Indoor lake, Muskoka chairs, fake trees! I wish I was a senator so I could enjoy asinine spending of our nation's tax dollars too! And pocket some while I'm at it so I can buy myself a new Ferrari!
Oh, and did I mention the cops are stoked to use their new toys?

They have the real G8 meetings in a secret location. Four Seasons Florence was one of them.

Many comments here are defending protesting, and I am in full agreement. Canadains have the right to protest, but when the protest turns violent I am in full support of stopping them. I say shame on all of you who concider the rights of protesting to be more important than the safety of people.

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