Riot response was too little, too late: critics
Published Monday, June 20, 2011 5:18PM PDT
Too few police officers deployed too late helped lead to the violent chaos of the Stanley Cup riot, according to a former Vancouver cop.
Former Vancouver police inspector Dave Jones told CTV News that cities like New York and London would normally assign between 1,200 and 1,500 officers to a public gathering as large as the one that converged on downtown Vancouver last week.
"That number exceeds the entire complement of the Vancouver Police Department," Jones said.
"The Vancouver Police Department is grossly under-resourced for these types of events."
Sources say there may have been fewer than 500 officers trying to control a crowd of more than 100,000 when bedlam broke out on Wednesday.
Jones says that police were likely deployed too late to prevent events from spiralling out of control in the densely packed crowd.
"Police deployment didn't happen until about 4:30. A critical density had already been reached probably an hour or two prior to that in the Hamilton-Georgia area, and it could not be decompressed at that point," he said.
The crowd was just so big and people were packed so tightly that normally law-abiding citizens found themselves doing things that were entirely out of character, he added.
"People were just jammed in there. Something happens to people's brains in that kind of close proximity," Jones said.
"I watched people who are probably our neighbours behaving in a way that the next day would have shocked even themselves."
He says police were also stymied by the masses of onlookers who gathered around the rioters, taking photographs and videos with their cell phones.
"They were a cheering section, they were an appreciative audience, but most of all, by their sheer numbers, they were a blockade preventing police getting to the criminals who were causing this problem," he said.
Vancouver City Coun. Suzanne Anton agrees that the police response was insufficient, and she is accusing the mayor of virtually handcuffing the police.
"Clearly the police were under-resourced. Why were they? Were they constrained by budgets? What thinking lay behind that?" she said.
To prove her point, she's demanding to see emails between Mayor Gregor Robertson's office and the police department.
But Robertson says city hall is not to blame. "The chief has been pretty clear with this. All of the requests he made to city council and the province were honoured," he said.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu says that he could have used more officers, but the VPD issued a statement Monday saying that police were not influenced by politicians from the city. The department calls claims to the contrary "fantastical" with "no shred of truth."
The city and province announced Monday that there will be an independent review into the planning that led to the riot.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington