Thursday, September 1, 2011
Report says Vancouver cops not ready
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Police underestimated the number of people who would descend on Vancouver's downtown and faced communication problems when they lost control of the massive, alcohol-fueled crowd that rioted following the Vancouver Canucks' defeat in the National Hockey League finals in June, said a report released Thursday.
About 150 people were injured, nine police officers were wounded, more than 50 businesses were vandalized and looted, and 15 cars were burned during the June 15 riots that made international headlines and embarrassed the city, which had successfully hosted the Winter Olympics only a year before.
Multiple cars were set on fire during the riots that scarred Vancouver after the last game of the Stanley Cup final.
Adding to the city's embarrassment is the fact that police have not yet charged anyone in connection with the riots. Police Chief Jim Chu said police are still identifying people from video and photographs.
The report said that the Vancouver Canucks' Game 7 loss of the NHL's Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins resulted in "significant criminal behavior" because the crowd of 155,000 was larger and arrived earlier than officials had anticipated and overwhelmed security forces, whose communications equipment failed.
The situation was heading out of control long before the game as drunk people filled the downtown area, said the report, released by Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics CEO John Furlong and lawyer Douglas Keefe.
"Alcohol fueled those bent on destruction," Furlong said Thursday. "It resulted in a nightmare that embarrassed and shocked the city, the province and the country."
The report found that the Vancouver Police Department crowd control unit and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tactical squad could not communicate with each other or the command center due to radio incompatibility.
As the game ended, fights began and bottles were being hurled at a giant outdoor screen.
"It is clear the (Vancouver Police Department) underestimated the number of people who would take the whole day off to get downtown very early," said the report. "The opportunity to establish police control was lost."
Soon after the game ended, the first car was flipped near the game arena.
"At 7:46 p.m., a Twitter user with the handle Marimo tweets: 'Get ready for a riot, Vancouver,'" the report said.
Firefighters trying to douse burning cars were mobbed, the report said.
Police found themselves targeted with Molotov cocktails as three police cruisers were burned, said the review, which was requested by the province's solicitor general, minister of public safety and the city's mayor and police board.
The riot began to spread while bystanders recorded it on cell phones.
By 10 p.m. local time, police were using smoke, pepper spray and tear gas throughout the city's downtown.
Windows at major department stores were smashed and the stores' contents were looted, the report said.
Vancouver hospitals dealt with three stabbings and a man with critical head injuries after he fell from a viaduct. Hospitals were on standby for mass injuries.
The report made 53 recommendations for large-scale events, including regional coordination between government officials, media, the Canucks and the NHL.
Among the suggestions: gain greater control of alcohol possession and sales during large events.
"Alcohol consumption and binge drinking are significant problems in our society and on June 15 were like fire on gasoline and triggered law breaking that shocked and galled us all," the report said.