Riots in Vancouver, London totally different: police

Vancouver’s police chief launched an aggressive defence of his force’s handling of the Stanley Cup riots, saying anyone who compares the lack of charges so far from that skirmish with the charges and convictions already mounting in London is misinformed.

VANCOUVER — Vancouver’s police chief launched an aggressive defence of his force’s handling of the Stanley Cup riots, saying anyone who compares the lack of charges so far from that skirmish with the charges and convictions already mounting in London is misinformed.

Vancouver police say they have identified hundreds of people involved in the riots on June 15, and are scouring through more than a thousand hours of video to determine charges against others.

But two months after the riot, no charges have been laid.

Meanwhile, London police charged their 1000th suspect Wednesday in the violence that gripped the United Kingdom starting Aug. 6.

But Vancouver Chief Jim Chu said Vancouver police must take their time and get it right.

“If you are in favour of speed, you are in favour of more acquittals and lighter sentences,” Chu said.

After Chu’s brief remarks, Staff Sgt. Lee Patterson bluntly told the news conference the only similarity between the two events is that both countries “are plagued by the stigma of hosting a riot.”

Patterson spent 19 years in policing, a chunk of it in Britain, including being part of the police team investigating English riots in the past.

“People continue to discuss the riots like they are similar. They weren’t for many reasons,” Patterson said, his British accent still thick.

The Vancouver riot was small compared to the riots that began in London and spread.

In the West Coast city people from a vast area were drawn into the downtown core, whereas in London, the rioting was contained in local communities and was conducted by people living within those communities.

As well, police in England have vastly different powers than those of the Vancouver force.

“Trying to do this like-for-like comparison of the judicial process and subsequent investigation will invoke a lot of conversation, for sure,” Patterson said. “But let’s just consider a few things.”

He noted the United Kingdom has different legislation to work from, the result of a history of rioting over taxes, race issues and soccer games.

While police in England remain unarmed, they have different powers of entering houses, have different rules for evidence gathering and many London neighbourhoods are watched over by closed circuit television cameras — a tool which is rare and controversial in Canada.

Patterson also noted the London police pushed 16,000 officers onto its streets over the days of the rioting.

Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford has said that more than 800 officers were deployed by the end of the night to control the crowd of at least 100,000 people who showed up in Vancouver’s downtown core. Chu hasn’t released the exact numbers for operational reasons.

Chu said police have now identified 268 suspects.

He said 41 people have turned themselves in, but even laying charges against those people have been difficult. For example, he said some of those have been brought in by their parents, but police can’t find evidence to support charges against them.

Chu also said police are examining 1,600 hours of video of the riots.

Ordinarily, that would take the Vancouver force two years to sort through, but he said Vancouver investigators are taking the video to a high-tech police lab in Indianapolis for analysis, meaning the process could instead take mere weeks.