Vancouver Games policing, security lauded

Police and experts say that from a security standpoint the Vancouver Olympics were a resounding success.
B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed praised the police work with crowds during the Games. ((CBC))

Police and security experts say that from a security standpoint the Vancouver Olympics were a resounding success.

They say there were no major problems, with the exception of a violent protest on Feb. 13 — one day after the Games officially opened — when a few dozen masked protesters smashed windows, vandalized cars and intimidated pedestrians in downtown Vancouver.

B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed said police and security forces at the Vancouver Olympics established a "gold standard" for a peaceful, safe and secure Winter Games.

He praised the Vancouver police and the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit for achieving what he calls an unprecedented success.

Heed said the good police work meant athletes could focus on achieving their best, spectators could focus on the performances, and people out to soak up the Olympic spirit could do so safely.

He also gave a nod to those who celebrated in the streets, saying responsible crowds helped contribute to a peaceful Olympics.

Andre Gerolymatos, a professor of security studies at Simon Fraser University, also praised the police for the way they dealt with the large crowds, calling their work "impeccable."

"It shows that Vancouver can certainly handle — and it has in the past — a major international event such as the Olympics," he said.

"I think in the future, the lesson for the police is that, you know, the positive approach is much better than being aggressive."

RCMP stand guard outside of Canada Hockey Place in downtown Vancouver. ((Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press))

Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard said he has "never been prouder" to be a member of the force.

Despite record crowds and almost 21,000 liquor pour-outs, LePard said the Olympic street party was hugely successful.

He credits the decision to shut down liquor stores early on several occasions and a friendly policing strategy.

"We've got a meet and greet philosophy, put a smile on your face … and I cannot tell you how sore our hands are from all the people that were high-fiving us."

LePard said police also handled the protests well — even when things got out of hand.

"Through all of that the blue line held and no one in the crowd was injured."

UBC political science professor Michael Byers said police "showed commendable restraint in dealing with protesters."

Byers did say he thought the $1-billion security budget was excessive, but that the success of the Games demonstrates the importance of being prepared when it comes to major events and protests.

With files from The Canadian Press