Street party ‘nothing out of the ordinary,’ Toronto police officer says

Three hundred police officers patrol the street, 50 more than last year

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Both the partiers and the police increased their numbers this year. Insp. Brian Cookman of the Kingston Police said there were about 300 officers on the street, about 150 of whom were from out of town. Kingston Police brought in forces from Belleville, Brockville, Cornwall, Toronto and members of the Ontario Provincial Police. The number is about 50-officer increase from last year.

Out-of-town forces also covered some of the day shifts Friday and Saturday, allowing Kingston Police officers to rest up for Saturday night.

Police estimate attendee numbers between 6,000 and 7,000 on Aberdeen Street and another 1,000 on surrounding streets. The increase from last year in people on Johnson Street and University Avenue necessitated closing down Johnson Street.

Cookman said more than 80 people were arrested. Final numbers won’t be tallied until early next week. The Aberdeen Working Group is aiming to get rid of the party by next year, but Cookman said it’s unlikely the party will be going anywhere any time soon.

“It would be very difficult for me to say the cycle is broken. I don’t think we can convince 7,000 people not to show up.” Lessons are learned every year, he said, on improving police coverage of the event, but more needs to be done

“It’s a sense of relief that it’s over but it’s a sense of frustration that we have not been able to break this,” he said.

Despite the increase in bodies, officers on the ground said the atmosphere was, for the most part, friendly.

Robb Knapper, a Toronto staff sergeant, said he’s used to this kind of party.

“It’s the same as anything we have in Toronto,” he said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

Toronto Police officers from the city’s Crowd Management Team expressed less concern about the evening’s events than their Kingston colleagues.

Paul Tohill, a staff sergeant and 32-year veteran of the Kingston Police Force, said he thought there was a larger alumni presence at this year’s street party then there has been in the past.

“I think there’s a lot more alumni here than last year,” he said, adding that safety was his first priority.

“It’s a big concern when you get a large group of people together and there’s alcohol involved.

“Our biggest concern is the safety of everyone here, and the safety of our officers.”

Mike Atwood, staff sergeant with the Kingston Police, said most of his team’s arrests were for public intoxication. He said liquor-related infractions are completely avoidable.

“People who get tickets are so out there, they’re attracting our attention. They bring it upon themselves,” he said. “We’ve got to get the message out about the liquor laws. Liquor laws have to be obeyed.”

Atwood said with his staff being paid time-and-a-half Saturday night, public funds could be better used elsewhere.

“It’s a shame we couldn’t put the taxpayers’ money to a better cause.”

—With files from Erin Flegg

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