Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu is defending the pace of criminal investigations into Vancouver rioters, saying investigators are moving slowly because authorities want to make sure they can secure convictions.
"Even though we acknowledge the frustration of those who wish these suspects were already in jail, and we hear and share your frustration, there are many reasons why we must proceed at this pace," Chu told reporters Wednesday at a news conference.
His comments came as critics point to swift sentencing seen in Britain in the wake of a sweeping series of riots in recent weeks.
British police have arrested more than 3,000 people, laid more than 1,000 charges and already secured some convictions, including two men who received four-year sentences for inciting rioters with social media.
It has been more than two months since the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 15, prompting hundreds to smash storefronts and torch vehicles over the course of three hours in the city's downtown core.
Although more than 100 were arrested during the Vancouver riot since then, only eight cases have been reviewed by the Crown and all of those were sent back to police for further review. In B.C., police don't lay charges but recommend charges to Crown prosecutors.
Chu said investigators want to gather sufficient evidence to ensure convictions and are reviewing a trove of video and photographic evidence, much of it submitted from the public.
"Our diligence and thoroughness will ensure that we leave the highest number of charges and obtain the greatest number of convictions with the most severe penalties," he said.
Can't compare U.K. riots with Vancouver
The 50-member Integrated Riot Investigation Team, a group made of RCMP and local police staff, have identified 268 suspects so far and identified 259 criminal incidents, the chief said.
Another 41 suspects have turned themselves in, he added.
Staff Sgt. Lee Patterson, who has also served as a police officer in Britain, sought to make a clear distinction between the U.K. riots and the disorder in Vancouver.
"People continue to discuss the riots like they were similar, they weren't for many reasons," he said.
Patterson said the Vancouver riot was sparked by a sports incident and was fairly short-lived, while the U.K. riots affected several cities and raged for days and was triggered by a different social situation.
The British police also have more "robust" legislation to swiftly deal with rioters, due in large part to a history of public disturbances including soccer hooliganism, race riots and labour unrest, Patterson said.
British authorities brought 16,000 officers into London alone to deal with the disturbances and brought hundreds of investigators from neighbouring regions, he added. Police also had access to a number of CCTV cameras, he said.
Police to launch investigation website
Chu said Vancouver police will soon launch a website dedicated to the riot investigation, including the number of charges and pictures of suspects.
The police will also partner with the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association to more quickly review all of the riot video footage at the National Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab at University of Indiana," the chief said.
"They have the physical resources there to allow our investigators to analyse the more than 1,600 hours of video of footage in weeks, rather than the estimated two years it would take us to do this ourselves," Chu said.
Insp. Les Yeo, who is heading the riot investigation, said police want to go over evidence as thoroughly as possible to ensure the largest number of charges can be laid, including on those who may have already turned themselves in for lesser offences.