Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu says the force learned some valuable lessons from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and has adapted a new hands-off philosophy for dealing with crowds and protesters as a result.

The force was given a daunting task during the Games, having to protect the Olympic athletes and fans while also managing the large celebratory crowds and monitor protests.

Perhaps the biggest test for officers was also the earliest, when more than 2,000 demonstrators gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery while 60,000 revelers were enjoying the Opening Ceremonies at BC Place.

Chief Chu says that decisions made by senior officers that night were pivotal to the success of their policing for the duration of the event.

"We had information. We fight the first night, we are probably going to fight the rest of the Olympic Games," he said.

With the world watching Vancouver, police did not want violence to become an event at the Games.

"So our crowd control commander that night made a decision. He deployed officers wearing soft hats, no face shields, they locked arms and they held the line, showed amazing restraint," Chu said.

Municipal officers and Mounties from across the country were told not to yield to taunts even while they were being pelted by rocks and other items. Some officers were spat on.

No sooner had that demonstration ended when another erupted.

Chief Chu admits that a protest creating havoc along West Georgia Street in the downtown core had him worried and asking questions about what the rest of the month would hold.

"I thought ‘is it going to get worse? Is this going to continue for 15, 16 more days?'" he said.

But it didn't get worse, in part because officers didn't react to demonstrators. And the anti-Olympic activists packed up and went home.

Chief Chu said changing tactics was an effective strategy, one that they've since shared with police agencies around the world.

"We changed our philosophy in terms of policing to a meet-and-greet strategy with officers being visible, making eye contact and smiling," he said. "We continued on for the Olympics and that worked really, really well.

Social VPD members blended into the crowd and even the chief joined the street teams patrolling the downtown area.

When police perceived too many drunken partiers, they went straight to the source, shutting down liquor sales early in downtown Vancouver to cut off the supply lines.

Call it a warm mitten approach to policing.

"We needed to look at other ways, even more unique ways, to get a handle on the public intoxication," VPD spokesperson Cpl. Jana McGuinness said.

The BC Civil Liberties Association sent legal observers to keep a close eye on police activities but no complaints were filed.

Spokesperson David Eby believes Vancouver learned a lot about how different things can be when police apply more of a "hands-off" approach.

"When you think of Vancouver's history you think of Guns and Roses, the so-called Riot at the Hyatt, APEC. I think the Olympics were a real departure from that history," Eby said.

The VPD used the soft tactic this past New Year's Eve and it seemed to work.

"We think the police set a high watermark for themselves that they need to live up to in the future," Eby said.

Meanwhile, Chief Chu hopes the negative events of the past are history. When it comes to partying crowds and protests, most agree the VPD's approach has changed for the better.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington