Vancouver police defend riot response
Internal police review released Tuesday
Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu says an internal review of the Stanley Cup riot indicates the department's response was justified and insists there was no way to know trouble was brewing in the city's downtown.
"We based our number of police officers on the street that night on experience, information we received, and the professional judgment of our VPD planning staff," said Chu, who released the report on Tuesday morning.
"No one had information that there was going to be a riot. No one had information that the crowd would swell to this size ... We were surprised by the size of the crowd but that doesn’t mean we weren’t prepared."
The police report is the third review to be released so far, and repeats the force's claims that there was nothing it could have done to prevent the riot that followed the Vancouver Canucks' loss to the Boston Bruins June 15.
It also suggests the city should make changes when it holds large-scale public events to ensure there is a way to control who can attend or how many people can gather in one spot.
"Do not have large scale public events with 'festival seating/standing' that concentrate large crowds of young persons — particularly the young 'hooligan' demographic — who have the propensity for public drinking in a small area. This creates problems in the crowds both inside and outside, especially when the entertainment is visible outside the venue," the report says.
"Ticketing is one means of guaranteeing entrance for families, controlling capacity, and limiting overflow."
City council will discuss the issue, said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, but public gatherings are a part of city life.
"We needed to have activities downtown for people," he said.
"People want to come downtown to celebrate, want to watch the game together, and so I think we just have to reshape how we do that — look at better ways of organizing [the] sites, ensuring that the security and policing is in place proactively."
Both reviews will be discussed at a special city council meeting Tuesday afternoon. Councillors will also hear from members of the public who want to weigh in.
'Downtown Vancouver was an outdoor stadium'
An independent review released last week painted a picture of a confused, overwhelmed police force that was slow to react as the alcohol-fuelled crowds gathered to watch the game on giant outdoor screens.
The police report says there was no way for the force to know the crowds downtown would reach more than 150,000 people.
[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=706 size=small]
"In effect, the VPD and its policing partners were policing a total crowd of approximately 155,000 that stretched over a large part of downtown Vancouver — one could say that downtown Vancouver was an outdoor stadium that held 155,000 people," the report says.
"The crowds were massively larger than what was expected and the level of intoxication and general belligerence was higher than that seen in previous games."
The report goes on to say the department had absolutely no information it would be facing a potential riot once the game ended.
"This was the first game where individuals came downtown with the intent to start a riot. In the final minutes of the game, fights broke out, bottles were being thrown at the screen and cars were overturned and set on fire," reads the report.
"It is unusual for a sports-related riot to have two simultaneous flashpoints and this fact could not have been anticipated. The fact that it did occur caused the VPD and its policing partners to respond to the riot on two fronts, thus stretching resources."
Crowd served as 'cheerleaders' to rioters
The report adds that riot instigators were encouraged by thousands of people in participating in criminal acts.
"Several thousand people, many of who were previously consuming alcohol, and extremely excited by the situation, could be considered as 'willing joiners' and they seamlessly linked with the 'instigators' to loot and create mayhem," the report says.
"Tens of thousands of other people served as 'cheerleaders' for the many thousands of rioters by taking pictures, encouraging them on, and providing a human shield for the law-breakers.
"The 2011 riot can be distinguished as perhaps the first North American social media sports riot and the acting out for the cameras seen in the 1994 riot was multiplied many times more in the 2011 riot by the thousands of people cheering the rioters on and recording the riot with handheld cameras and phones."
An executive summary distributed in advance of the report's release suggests that Vancouver police and other forces throughout the region need better training, should work on improving their co-ordination and should be using the same equipment.
Hundreds of people burned cars, defied riot police, smashed windows and looted stores for hours after the hometown Canucks lost the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final on June 15.
Both Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson said the earlier provincial review supported their position that there was little more they could have done to prevent what happened.
With files from The Canadian Press