An on-the-ground report of how a public-private partnership between police and private security protected Toronto's downtown area from greater damage during Black Bloc anarchist riots during the G20 Summit. (Online Exclusive)
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.
An Anarchic Weekend
It wasn’t long before TAPPS and its network were tested.
On the Thursday before the big G20 weekend, a crazy convergence of events tested the capabilities of the public-private partnerships forged to protect the city of Toronto. The day began with a suspicious package incident during the morning rush hour at a subway station adjacent to the Ontario Ministry of Finance. Things got worse when a 5.0 magnitude earthquake struck the region, and a group of approximately 1,000 demonstrators converged on the Ministry’s Queen’s Park location during the afternoon, stress testing its security plans. The three incidents were concurrently managed by a unified police/security protective program utilizing TAPPS. Timely communication about the earthquake from the Ontario Provincial Police helped the Ministry’s security service and emergency management team avoid an unnecessary evacuation of its facility and devote its resources to the public order threat presented by protesters, while police managed building lockdowns in the demonstration’s vicinity.
Then by midday Saturday, groups of Black Bloc anarchists separated themselves from the larger peaceful protests surrounding the G20 security cordon and began breaking storefront windows and torching police cars across the financial and shopping districts.
Operating as an element of the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit—a joint service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Toronto Police Service, Canadian Forces, Peel Police Service, and other law enforcement partners—TAPPS analysts distributed vital information and coordinated knowledge transfer to TAPPS members. Near real-time information was relayed about protest movements on a turn-by-turn basis through the city streets.
“For the first time, to my knowledge, a civilian organization operated within the Toronto Police Major Incident Command sending information and intelligence to private security members as it was also being disseminated to police,” says TAPPS Founder and Chairman Nick Migliore.
Other security professionals note TAPPS members' contribution to the secure portal, which was accessed 6,500 times over the weekend. “The ‘eyes and ears’ of the membership played a crucial role in ensuring that properties directly in the protest zone were aware of the groups’ movements,“ says TAPPS member Leo Manos, a special projects manager for The Reilly Group of Companies. “Regular communications from TAPPS assisted us in deploying security personnel in critical areas before, during, and after the summit.”
The hard work in advance of the summits—including regular meetings, planning sessions, training and exercises, technology development, as well as the close coordination and enhanced communication that TAPPS assisted with—helped forge strong and effective protective programs during the challenging and sometimes difficult days of the summits. Migliore says that without TAPPS, message alerts, and the common radio frequency, business owners and properties would have been caught off-guard by the anarchists. Instead, advanced warning allowed business and property owners to lock down their facilities as well as the underground PATH system. No anarchist breached a building or the PATH. If they had, the damage could have been catastrophic. Rough estimates place the potential damage costs in the millions of dollars.
“The plans were well executed, damage was predictable, and information-sharing made it all possible,” says Oksana Farber, chairman of the ASIS International’s Law Enforcement Liaison Council.
After the summit, the perimeter fences came down around the heart of Toronto, signaling a return to normalcy. There was some property damage, mass protests, and some criticism about the mass arrests, but overall, police and private security did their job: the safety and security of the leaders of the 20 most powerful states were assured.
Security and police professionals now hope to build on the lessons learned and realize an even greater collaboration between police and security in the future. “It is my hope that some security consultants will have the opportunity to be part of the after-the-fact debrief,” Alan Bell, a security consultant and media analyst for Globe Risk International, says. “I believe that important lessons have possibly gone unrecognized.”
The wisdom of learning from the past is in large part how TAPPS originally came into being. By adhering to the culture of public-private initiatives, security and police have successfully met their objectives together and plan on perfecting their partnership into the future.
David Neely, CPP, is a manager at Security Services & Emergency Management at the Ontario Ministry of Finance. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and serves on the ASIS International Law Enforcement Liaison Committee.