The private security guard’s suspicions were raised immediately. On duty at the University of Toronto, the Reilly Security guard watched as a swarm of black-clad individuals got off a bus and entered a nearby building on campus. According to intelligence reports he had received, the individuals fit the description of the “Black Bloc,” typically anarchists who dress in all black and obscure their faces to preserve their anonymity and create the illusion of a larger group.
Earlier that day, roving packs of Black Bloc anarchists stormed Toronto’s financial and shopping districts damaging business storefronts and setting police cruisers on fire in an anti-capitalist rage during the G20 protests. Fearful the black-clad grouping was preparing for more mischief, the security guard reported what he observed to the University of Toronto’s Incident Command Center and the Toronto Association of Police and Private Security (TAPPS), a public-private security partnership that operates an online portal for information sharing. Intelligence confirmed that these 75 anarchists planned to target two large financial institutions the next day. Police were dispatched to the scene and arrested 75 suspected anarchists before they could cause further mayhem.
After months of planning, training, and information sharing, TAPPS had proven its resourcefulness and utility once again—a common occurrence throughout the chaotic weekend of June 25.
TAPPS Prepares for the G20
With the Vancouver Winter Olympics just months in the rear-view mirror, public and private security organizations across Canada faced another daunting task: protecting their personnel and assets during the G8 and G20 Summits in late June with little forewarning. It wasn’t until December 7, 2009, that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper revealed that the G8 and G20 summits would be held in the Toronto area. (The nearby vacation town of Muskoka would host the G8 Summit on June 25 and 26, while the city proper would host the G20 Summit on June 26 and 27.)
In response, Toronto spent nearly $1 billion to construct a security architecture—in little more than 6 months—to protect the world’s most powerful heads of state. A key part of that architecture was TAPPS. Created during the mid-1990s, TAPPS is a nonprofit partnership between police and private security to enhance education, training, and information sharing among security professionals. The association has been guided by the objectives of public-private initiatives outlined by numerous commissions and bodies including the International Association of Chief of Police, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and ASIS International.
As the G8/G20 Summits approached, TAPPS helped build and coordinate many of the security initiatives drawn on by police and private security during the tense weekend. Four months before the G20, TAPPS helped bring organizations—including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Toronto Police, NYPD Shield and other specialized units—together to develop plans and share intelligence on known terrorist and extremist threats, including the Black and Pink Bloc anarchists. The information gathered was then fed into the TAPPS secure portal (www.tapps.org) to build an intelligence database that police and private security could draw from during the summit weekend. TAPPS members could discuss the intelligence on message boards within the secure Web site.
TAPPS and the Toronto Police established a new common radio frequency in February to create an interoperable communications hub for police and private security. TAPPS members then purchased radios with a common channel frequency to connect them with both police and commercial property partners. Using the common radio frequency, police and private security could arrange real time coordination of building lockdowns, organize public order responses, and provide alerts about criminal activity during the week-long event.
TAPPS members participated in a joint training exercise coordinated by the association and held at a downtown high-rise complex in late April, where they observed police respond to an active shooter incident in Toronto’s financial district. Members of the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force and EMS Tactical Paramedics worked with building security and life safety to operate the city’s new common radio frequency.
With this enhanced communication capability, private security could become a public safety force multiplier.
“There are only so many police officers but there’s lots of private security,” Deputy Chief Kim Derry of the Toronto Police Department 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.”
The adoption of the common radio frequency also helped to more effectively safeguard the city’s extensive underground PATH network and coordinate general security response. The PATH—a subterranean system of shopping malls beneath the downtown area with access to transit, hotels, and office towers—had in the past been the subject of “snake marches” and other protests. [View of a map of the PATH here (.pdf)] TAPPS members aimed at preventing this from occurring again during the G20 weekend.