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London police chief proposes new rules for international travel



London police chief proposes new rules for international travel

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London’s police chief must sign off on all international training missions and conferences under a new process for approving trips aboard, according to a new report.

Chief Thai Truong came under pressure in February for sending a team of tactical officers to compete in the 2024 UAE SWAT challenge in the United Arab Emirates, where teams accused of human-rights abuses and war crimes were also participating in the 12-day event.

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After CBC news first reported on the trip, police board chair Ali Chahbar directed police administration to provide a report outlining specific financial and procedural considerations governing the approval of the training trip as well as the process overseeing similar excursions.

A framework for managing the approval and oversight of international travel for police employees will be presented at next week’s police board meeting.

“This process has been developed in collaboration with the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College to ensure that our decisions are informed by expert advice in international affairs and geopolitics,” reads the report Truong will present to the seven-member board Thursday.

“In our limited capacity to navigate international affairs and geopolitics, it became imperative to seek expertise to make well-informed decisions regarding international training opportunities for our members.”

Under the new process, division commanders will complete risk assessments for all proposed trips and Global Affairs Canada will also be consulted. Truong will ultimately have to give the green light for all international trips after all the possible risks are reviewed and mitigated.

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“The Chief of police or designate provides final approval, ensuring benefits outweigh potential risks,” the two-page report states.

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Truong apologized in March for sending members of the emergency response unit to compete in the event that included teams from several police forces, including members of the Akhmat Kadyrov special forces, a paramilitary organization from the Russian republic of Chechnya fighting against Ukraine in the war, and the Almaz anti-terrorism unit, a special unit from Belarus accused of violently suppressing anti-government protests following the country’s disputed 2021 election.

Security experts criticized London police for participating in the competition alongside the two pro-Russian units, with one expert calling it a “gift to Moscow.”

But Truong said he wasn’t aware the Akhmat Kadyrov special forces and Almaz anti-terrorism unit were competing in the event and didn’t find out until the London team returned home.

“I lament the hurt that members of our community felt,” Truong said at the March 21 police board meeting. “The incident for me, as a chief, highlighted that we don’t have an adequate process to vet international training.”

The trip cost London police around $17,000, well below the initial $115,000 price tag after the host, Dubai police, agreed to reduce the cost.

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