Police request $84,000 from University

Also requesting $450,000 from city to purchase helmets and Tasers for Aberdeen next year

Kingston Police have made up their minds about Homecoming and they’ve settled on a price tag for the weekend.

Last Wednesday, the police force delivered two letters to Principal Karen Hitchcock and Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane spelling out the response police would like from the University concerning the unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party.

The first letter asks the University to pay an $84,036.44 bill to cover the cost of 100 officers who staffed the Ghetto during Homecoming weekend.

The police estimated that $119,493.97 was spent over the weekend in the Ghetto, though the bill may increase due to ongoing criminal investigations and as people charged that night are brought to court.

Insp. Brian Cookman told the Journal the request isn’t legally binding.

“We can make the request to Queen’s University to offset the cost, but they are under no obligation whatsoever, so that’s purely a request,” he said. “There’s no force, there’s no teeth to it.”

Deane said the University is currently considering what the nature of its contribution will be.

“We had expected this year to make a ... contribution,” Deane said. “We haven’t decided in what amount or what the nature of our response is to that letter, but it’s being considered.”

The University made a $6,500 contribution to police after they responded to last year’s unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party, which cost the force $35,000 in overtime.

Deane declined to comment on the difference in financial figures between this year and last.

Police didn’t release the second letter publicly, though according to Deane it makes suggestions about what police would like to see happen regarding Homecoming 2006.

He said the suggestions include having the University commit to covering the “full costs” incurred by police if a large, unsanctioned party occurs again. It also suggests that the University undertake certain “fixed” disciplinary action for students charged for infractions under the Criminal Code or provincial offences act. Further, the letter asks the University to consider cancelling Homecoming altogether.

“When the police are forced to stand back and watch a vehicle destroyed and arson committed, it really goes against everything a police officer is standing for,” Cookman said. “It’s also a slam against the community and communities that are policed.”

Cookman oversaw the police presence for the weekend of Sept. 23 to 25. Last Thursday, at a meeting of the police services board, he presented more information about the 357 tickets issued and the 22 criminal charges laid in conjunction with partying that filled Aberdeen Street with 5,000 to 7,000 people on Sept. 24. The Board is a civilian body that oversees the department.

Of the persons ticketed, 64 were self-identified residents of Kingston, 41 were residents of Ottawa and 55 were residents of Toronto.

Twenty-one other cities—from Vancouver to Halifax—were represented in the people ticketed. At least 17 universities and colleges outside of Kingston were also represented among those charged.

Cookman also told the Board he’s asking the city for an estimated $454,676 to “ramp up our use of force options” for next year, though currently there is “no concrete plan.”

“If you listen to the opinion of the public court, the community is less than impressed with what happened on Aberdeen Street,” Cookman later told the Journal. “What I presented was an option and a suggestion of what might be tried in order to persuade people not to participate in such an uncivilized gathering.”

He said the funds would go towards logistics, staffing, bringing in police from outside the city and purchasing new equipment to help enforce order. He added this would include 180 safety helmets with face shields, 30 additional Tasers and possibly tear gas.

“For the last two years, minimal force has been used, but next year what we’re faced with is just resorting to what the Criminal Code allows the police, which is called ‘reasonable force,’” Cookman explained, citing section 25 of the Code. “I feel very, very strongly about having the safety helmets and [face] shields for the officers, and the Tasers, so that they can ensure we aren’t faced with the same problems we were this year in that we couldn’t get a fire truck through [Aberdeen Street] or an ambulance through to rescue someone.”

Frontenac Paramedic Services were called to the area 15 to 20 times for people requiring an ambulance that night. The Kingston General Hospital emergency room was also filled with a number of persons whose injuries related to the partying. There were no fatalities.

Deane said the University is currently focused on trying to address the root causes of what happens on Aberdeen Street.

“It seems to me somewhat premature to talk about measures that, in my view, are measures of last resort,” he said. “I perfectly well understand why the police are discussing it in this way, and I believe everyone needs to understand it is the right and the obligation of the police to keep order.

“But from the point of view of the University, our preference would be to see it dealt with by other means and a similar event to be avoided.”

Cookman said helmets with face shields would ensure the safety of officers who might actually deal with partiers.

“To be blunt, we’re just tired of trying to dodge beer bottles thrown by inconsiderate people,” he said, “especially when these people are asking us to get into the crowd and rescue somebody because they’re down and out and can’t get out on their own steam.”

He said the Tasers, which are not part of an officer’s usual outfit, would also be used to affect the rescue of an injured civilian or an officer. They could also be used to prevent criminal activity or arrest somebody to stop them from engaging in criminal activity, he added.

“They’re not being used to just arbitrarily go in and use them indiscriminately,” Cookman said. “They are there for a specific purpose.”

He explained the use of a Taser is based on pain compliance.

“It’s going to make you jump,” he said. “It’s not debilitating, it’s not going to cause you to be hospitalized.

“The way we view it is if somebody isn’t going to respond to your verbal command and get out of the way because I’m trying to arrest the person behind you, or I’m trying to arrest someone and they’re not going to comply and they want to fight with the police, well, which is a better option here?” Cookman said if a person resists arrest, as with some cases on Abderdeen, two or more officers is sometimes necessary.

“With the Taser, that’s just your new partner,” he said.

Cookman said the option of tear gas would only be used in an extreme case.

“We don’t want to go anywhere near this type of persuasion,” he said. “This is ridiculous to think in a civilized society we have to be even contemplating using this type of means to stop [the unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party]. Once you start using tear gas, there’s all kinds of issues that are part and parcel to it.”

Deane said the second letter regarding the police’s suggestions presupposes a number of things.

“The key point that the University keeps wanting to make is that the problems this year were about an Aberdeen Street party,” Deane said. “Homecoming is a University event and the disturbance didn’t occur at a University event.”

He said cancelling Homecoming isn’t necessarily the answer.

“Homecoming itself doesn’t cause problems—it’s the parties that occur on Aberdeen that [do],” he said. “One of the key points that needs to be borne in mind is there’s a lot of fairly loose talk about the events on Aberdeen as if they were Homecoming itself—this the University disputes.”

Cookman said he personally thinks the actions of a few shouldn’t warrant cancelling Homecoming.

“There are obviously hundreds of people from Queen’s alumni that come to Kingston for the right reasons,” he said.

Deane said the request by police for the University to commit to covering full costs of an Aberdeen-type event in the future is complex.

“As a matter of policy, this is a party that occurs in city jurisdiction, not on the University’s property,” he said.

“There are complex questions that arise when one thinks of the police now contemplating charging for ordinary city policing activities.” He declined to comment further.

Regarding the third suggestion asking the University to consider implementing potentially “automatic” discipline, Deane said it’s not necessarily possible for the University to agree with police about a kind of mandatory discipline to be set for particular offences.

“The University does regard this behaviour very seriously and would want to see people disciplined appropriately,” he said. “[But] we have our own system of procedures and we also subscribe to certain principles of due process.”

Last week, city council approved the framework for an 11-member committee to seek ways to prevent future illegal activity such as that which occurred during Homecoming.

Floyd Patterson, city councillor for Sydenham district, who headed the committee’s creation, said their mandate is compatible with the preparations being made by police.

“The committee would never make a judgment about whether any given amount of police force is necessary or not necessary,” Patterson said.

“The committee is taking no notice of whatever kind of preparations the police may make.

“The police have a duty at all times of the year, throughout all hours of the day, to identify threats in the community and be prepared to meet them.”

Police statistics

• Average age of people ticketed: 21

• 17-year-olds ticketed: 7

• 18-year-olds ticketed: 47

• Oldest person ticketed: age 49

• Tickets for open liquor: 284

• Total number of tickets: 357

• 33 charges against 11 Queen’s students for illegal pancake keg parties Saturday morning

• Criminal charges: 22

• Charged or ticketed who identified themselves as being from Kingston: 64; from Ottawa: 41; from Toronto: 55.

• Other cities represented in charges:
Brantford, Burlington, Cobourg, Cornwall, Halifax, Kanata, London, Mississauga, Montreal, Nepean, North York, Oakville, Orleans, Oshawa, Perth, Pickering, Scarborough, Stittsville, Sydenham, Whitby, Vancouver

• Other universities represented among people charged:
Carleton, Dalhousie, Guelph, McGill, Ryerson, Ottawa, U of T, Trent, Western, Bishop’s

• Colleges represented among people charged:
St. Lawrence, Algonquin, Centennial, Conestoga, Durham, Fanshawe , RMC

Source: Kingston Police

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