It is no surprise to local residents that Queen’s University’s annual Homecoming celebrations have “evolved into a large party,” as the acting chief and deputy chief of Kingston Police described it in a co-authored report to the Kingston Police Services Board (KPSB).
The report, which outlines the activities and enforcement undertaken by Kingston Police for Homecoming 2023, was written in advance of the upcoming meeting of the KPSB, scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023, by Acting Chief Scott Fraser and new Acting Deputy Chief Lillian Murdock.
The report gives a general overview of Queen’s Homecoming, noting that “in recent years, this student party has swelled to large numbers and poured into the streets surrounding the campus. The taking over of local streets, damage to property, and concern for the safety of the public has brought about the need for an organized response on the part of the Kingston Police.” The report then briefly reviews the Homecoming events of 2021 and 2022 from the perspective of police, including the number of arrests, charges, and bylaw fines laid.
As previously reported, Kingston Police and City of Kingston Bylaw Enforcement issued over $88,000 in fines over Homecoming weekend this year. Kingstonist has also reported that Kingston Police are projecting a budget deficit by year’s end 2023 — after the $1.29 million budget deficit of 2022.
Fraser and Murdock then note in the report that planning for this year’s Homecoming events began in July 2023, when Kingston Police identified the following mission statement for their Homecoming operations:
“Using an integrated response, the Kingston Police along with policing and City partners will keep the peace, enforce legislation and maintain public safety for the duration of the 2023 Queen’s Homecoming Event with the utmost respect to the [individuals’ rights under the] Charter of Rights and Freedoms with priority on community and emergency services personnel safety and well-being.”
Noting that police recognized that “for this mission to be accomplished, pre-emptive measures were required at the onset of Queen’s move-in weekend (Labour Day) and subsequent weekends leading up to Queen’s Homecoming.” As the report goes further, it becomes obvious this planning was necessary, as events throughout move-in and orientation weeks in the University District presented their own challenges, according to police. But before that happened, Kingston Police “identified and employed” the following “deployment strategies” (detailed descriptions of which can be found in the full report to the KPSB):
- Corporate Communication and Media Messaging Strategy
- Police Liaison Team Outreach Strategy
- Intelligence and Open-Source Strategy
- Collective Proactive Presence Strategy
- Enforcement Strategy
- De-escalation/Interdiction Strategy
As noted above, Kingston Police began deploying resources over move-in weekend and orientation week, in order to “have a more positive impact on crowds and challenging behaviours.”
“An invitation was extended to specific officers who have continuously demonstrated high enforcement numbers, which replaced a volunteer overtime response,” the report notes.
According to Kingston Police, the following charges were laid over move-in weekend and orientation week 2023:
According to the report, these charges marked a dramatic increase over the number laid during move-in and orientation week in 2022.
“It was estimated that the total number of provincial charges for the move-in weekend and orientation week was increased by over 1,000 per cent from 2022, at which time we laid 46 charges,” the report states.
“Although open-source intelligence indicated that there would only be one Homecoming event taking place on Oct. 21, 2023, enforcement officers were called in the weekend prior to assist in our momentum of education and enforcement.”
During the following weekend of October 15, which fell between move-in/orientation week and Homecoming weekend, police laid the following charges, according to the report:
The report goes on to note that (while unrelated to Queen’s events) a protest organized by ‘Hands Off Our Kids’ and a corresponding counter-protest took place on September 20, 2023, and that ‘Hands off our Kids’ were advertising a further event to take place on October 21. Thus police resources were required to set up a second operational plan for that event.
Also on October 21 there was a Palestinian reading occurring at Douglas Library on Queen’s campus. With emotions high over the war in Gaza, police wanted to be ahead of any potential tensions, and since it was impossible to predict the numbers that would attend this event, they put some contingency strategies in place.
The report notes that social media accounts advertised a Homecoming-related event to take place on Oct. 21, 2023; these accounts depicted disruptive and potentially dangerous environments and seemingly celebrating supporting large alcohol-fueled street parties.
A social media account called “Queen’s Party Life” indicated there was deliberate pre-planning and real-time organization of a large swath of attendees, possibly posing “additional risk to police as we attempt to safely manage large crowds,” notes the report.
As in years past, the report states that Kingston Police activated an Incident Command and Control structure to manage and deploy police resources and logistics on Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
Based on intelligence and expert opinion, Kingston Police reported they had requested the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police, Ottawa Police, and York Regional Police Public Order Units on October 21. “In addition to the highly trained public order contingencies on Oct. 21, we also had officers assisting us from Brockville Police, Gananoque Police, Smiths Falls Police, and Belleville Police.”
New this year, the report states, Kingston Police implemented a “Bylaw Liaison Team” to work in partnership with bylaw officers to ensure their safety and help conduct bylaw enforcement.
On Friday, October 20, 120 Kingston Police personnel were deployed: the command structure, supervisor, sworn and special constables, and civilian support staff. “Friday night proved to be quieter than what we have seen in previous years” notes the report.
On Saturday, October 21, 161 Kingston Police personnel were deployed, including those previously mentioned.
The report confirms that over the weekend, Kingston Police responded to large unsanctioned gatherings in the University District. Although officers reported seeing more cooperation, they still dealt with many residential parties, along with a street takeover. “We also observed several students gathered on the rooftop of a house on Aberdeen Street,” and a Nuisance Party was declared on Aberdeen from Johnson Street to Earl Street just after 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023.
With traffic restricted and attendees ordered to disperse or be liable to penalties, the report states that an estimated 4,000 students were on Aberdeen Street, and approximately 4,000 students were in backyard parties in and around the area.
“We experienced rainfall in the afternoon which assisted in dispersing the crowd. Police and Bylaw Enforcement successfully cleared the gathering, and the Nuisance Party declaration was lifted at 4:00 p.m.” the report states.
Despite the cold and damp weather, the report notes that at 9:30 p.m. large crowds were present in the area known as the “Hub” (Princess Street east of Division Street) and a team of officers were redeployed to this area to manage the large crowds and maintain public safety.
Charges for the weekend of October 22 were as follows:
The report concludes that “Over the course of the weekend, most students in attendance were respectful to police.” Officers did not observe any projectiles being thrown, and Kingston Police were not made aware of any serious injuries, nor were there any injuries to police.
“The initiation of our Police Liaison Teams, which were deployed weeks in advance of the Homecoming event coupled with a strong enforcement initiative, led to an overall positive weekend in the University District.”
“Providing a necessary measured police response since student move-in throughout Oct. put considerable strain on all our members. Our sworn personnel worked many long hours, often on overtime. All of our members – both sworn and civilian – should be commended for their hard work and professionalism,” the report notes.
The report concludes, “We are very fortunate to have strong community partners including Queen’s University, Frontenac Paramedics, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, Kingston Fire & Rescue, and City of Kingston Bylaw and other City services who worked with us in the preceding weeks and over the weekend to ensure safety for the entire community. The Kingston Police will continue collaborating with Queen’s University administration and student representatives throughout the year, in anticipation of future events.”
The report will be presented to the KPSB during its meeting on Thursday. Dec. 14, 2023, at 12 p.m. at the Kingston Police Headquarters, William Hackett Boardroom, 705 Division Street, Kingston.
With files from Tori Stafford.