A review of Campus Community Police involvement at a U of T Free Speech rally in October was published on January 31 by Assistant Dean at the Faculty of Law Alexis Archbold after a demand for a public inquiry from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU).
Archbold stated in her report that, days after the rally, the UTSU sent a private letter to Provost Cheryl Regehr which included complaints against the Campus Police, which stated that the police “failed to protect transgender and Black students from verbal and physical aggression.”
The UTSU released a public statement on its Facebook page, which demanded the inquiry by the administration be public as it will “restore confidence in the ability of the University, and of the Campus Police in particular, to guarantee the safety of students on campus.”
The report addressed issues between the Campus Police and students’ understanding of the limitations of the service. U of T Vice-President University Operations Scott Mabury told The Varsity that the report “advances the continued discussion between students and U of T about campus climate and safety, freedom of speech, and the role of campus policing.”
According to the report, Campus Police practiced a “hands off” method at the rally, and six officers were stationed around the parameters. The report claims that if officers were to insert themselves within the rally, it could possibly cause “officer-induced jeopardy” in which the presence of an active officer may precipitate more conflict in the crowd.
During the public event, Campus Police responded to complaints and gave friendly and respectful responses to students where they clarified the limitations of their job, Archbold reports. Officers also explained to students how to engage in the complaint process by which they operate.
According to Mabury, the university did not consider conducting a review of the actions of the Campus Police before the rally as “Campus Police were performing their duties consistent with the scope of their authority.”
The Toronto Police were called by Campus Police Associate Director Sam D’Angelo after a fire alarm was pulled in Sidney Smith Hall, which resulted in hundreds of students flooding out into the rally space.
Archbold states in the report that the rally became more “chaotic and challenging” due to factors such as the event being outdoors. Elements such as the outdoor setting, lack of clear organizer, and participation of individuals on both sides of the issue who instigated verbal and physical conflict resulted in the Campus Police deeming it unsafe to immediately intervene and control the crowd.
Student awareness of the role of Campus Police and the university administration at student events is an initiative recommended by Archbold and Mabury, as the university “will work to educate the U of T community about the role of Campus Police.”
The report also noted that there were non-U of T community members engaged in behaviour considered “very problematic, including making offensive comments, committing physical assaults, and making threats.” The report recommends putting in place a process of reporting people who are not members of the university community.
Other recommendations include creating a dialogue on campus civility and safety and educating students about the “risks of outdoor events.” The report also recommends revising the Policy on Disruption of Campus Meetings, which does not address outdoor events, and reviewing Campus Police’s complaints process.
Despite the fact that several students approached police officers at the rally with concerns, no students made formal complaints about the rally.
Speaking on behalf of the union, UTSU Vice-President Internal Mathias Memmel criticized the report. He told The Varsity, “The report concludes that Campus Police did their job properly. We disagree. Campus Police have a mandate to keep students safe, but there was violence at the rally, and they did nothing to stop it.”
Memmel described the mandate of the Campus Police as “so narrow as to be meaningless.” He also expressed disappointment that “the report didn’t engage meaningfully with how trans students and Black students were treated by Campus Police at and after the rally, as the UTSU requested.”