VANCOUVER – As the Vancouver Canucks marched their way toward the Stanley Cup, the city’s police force relied on the good behaviour of hockey fans in recent years and felt they could drastically reduce the amount they spent on security during the playoffs.
They were wrong.
In the aftermath of devastating riots in the city’s downtown core after the final game this week, Chief Const. Jim Chu said Friday in hindsight, he’d make many different decisions.
In anticipation of a playoff run in 2010, the Vancouver police submitted a report to city council estimating it would cost the force $968,232.30 to police fans outside the arena if the Canucks went all the way.
This year’s report to city council reduced that figure to $648,271.
The team didn’t make it to the final in 2010.
It’s not clear whether the force actually stuck to their 2011 estimate, made in March, or spent more as the crowds gathering in downtown Vancouver for each game, grew and grew.
And Chu wouldn’t say if the reduced request to city council this year was as a result of pressure from the city to cut costs.
“The operational decision on how much money to spend is my decision, not city council’s not the mayor’s,” Chu told reporters.
“The decision on what we ask for is mine. So I want to be clear, like, it’s not like I ask for it and get a yes or no. I make the decision on operational need. That’s my decision.”
However, he noted the report warns council there’s a potentially large expenditure looming and the force didn’t have that money in its budget. The money would have to be spent, the report said.
Both the 2010 and 2011 reports to city council stated “recent experience allows us to reduce our deployment” from that planned for previous years.
Citing security reasons, Chu declined Friday to say exactly how many officers he deployed downtown.
And on more than one occasion, he said he would have made different decisions, particularly around a massive public TV screen known as the Live Site.
The Live Site was near the riot’s epicentre.
“We would have had more police officers there,” he said. “That’s clearly something that we would have differently. There’s many things that we would have done differently.”
Chu is increasingly being put on the pointy end of questions demanding to know whether police were adequately prepared for the chaos that broke out Wednesday night.
On Friday, Chu tried to keep the focus on what police are doing now to catch those responsible.
He also praised the city’s Good Samaritans “heroes” for trying to protect people and property from the violence.
Chu acknowledged that those who tried to help the threatened or injured didn’t have training or equipment for the task.
“What you’ve done is truly heroic,” he said. “On behalf of the Vancouver police department and the citizens of Vancouver, thank you for your bravery.”
Premier Christy Clark also said Friday the government has created an email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) where the public can submit stories of heroism that occurred as the mob swarmed through the streets wreaking havoc.
“We will honour those heroes in a very public way,” she said, adding the city won’t stop holding outdoor events as a result of the violence.
Dozens of websites and Facebook pages with names like who-sucks.com and “namethatcriminal” have sprung up with photos and videos of the rioters, naming names and giving details of their lives, where they work, live and play.
In some cases, there are reports that employers were sent copies of photos showing their employees engaging in the melee.
The purported telephone number of one young man was posted online, and soon after, there were updates on the site suggesting he was receiving death threats and his family harassing phone calls.