Vancouver riot leads to talk about a regional police force

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Vancouver councillor Suzanne Anton says that the city’s experience with the Stanley Cup riot should spur discussions about the need for a metropolitan police force.

      “It is a very good argument in favour of a regional police force,” Anton told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Anton, the 1,300-strong Vancouver Police Department was “hampered” by a lack of personnel to deal with more than 100,000 people who converged in the downtown area on June 15, a crowd that might have been handled better by a bigger police force.

      However, the two-term councillor noted that Metro Vancouver may be too big to be served by just one regional force. According to her, there could be separate forces for areas north and south of the Fraser River.

      “There may be more than one way of doing it,” said Anton, who is running for mayor in this November’s civic election.

      Former Vancouver chief constable Bob Stewart pointed out that a regional force allows commanders to draw on more resources in emergency situations.

      “There would have been more readily accessible forces,” Stewart told the Straight by phone. “If you have a larger police force under one command, the deployment would be more effective.”

      Various estimates place the number of Vancouver police officers on the ground during the riot at between 500 and 700.

      During the 2010 Olympics hosted by Vancouver, the RCMP–led Integrated Security Unit had a total of about 16,000 personnel. These included 6,200 police officers from the RCMP and municipal forces, 5,000 members of the Canadian Forces, and about 4,800 private security personnel.

      The province, City of Vancouver, and VPD have announced an independent review of the preparations for and the mayhem that followed Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

      Robert Gordon, director of SFU’s school of criminology, has long been an advocate of regional policing. According to Gordon, it will be “extraordinarily foolish” if the review of the riot doesn’t come up with a recommendation to amalgamate police forces in Metro Vancouver.

      “In any other metropolitan area that is policed by a single police service”¦the planning would have involved the creation of a reserve of police officers drawn from around the region with common training, common policies, common practices, common leadership, [and] common communications,” Gordon told the Straight in a phone interview.

      John Furlong, former head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and Doug Keefe, a former Nova Scotia deputy attorney general, have been named as cochairs of the riot review. Their report is due on August 31.

      The Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria are the only major urban areas in the country that do not have a unified police service. Metro Vancouver is a patchwork of municipal police forces and RCMP detachments. Vancouver, West Vancouver, New Westminster, Delta, Port Moody, and Abbotsford have their own police, while the rest of the municipalities in the region are serviced by the Mounties.

      Former Vancouver police officer Doug Mackay-Dunn, now a councillor in the District of North Vancouver, pointed out that big urban jurisdictions face complex public-safety problems that can only be addressed by one police service. “That police service, in my view, should be metropolitan and not the RCMP,” Mackay-Dunn told the Straight by phone.



      Jim Van Rassel

      Jun 30, 2011 at 8:52am

      What they really don't want you to know is that there are not enough Cops or RCMP to deal with things if it 'really' goes wrong. The bottom line, we the people could take back our country from the ruling 'class' with out too much trouble and they know it. In actual fact it scares the living crap out of' them'. JVR
      Jim Van Rassel
      Coquitlam BC


      Jun 30, 2011 at 9:30am

      How about a novel idea...let's not have drunken parties in public for 100,000 people? Quite a bit cheaper and easier to control...


      Jun 30, 2011 at 10:51am

      Never happen the RCMP contract has been signed. Don't she read the paper ? a real Crown council would know that

      Joseph Jones

      Jun 30, 2011 at 11:08am

      Unreported story: How many VPD turned down voluntary overtime because they wanted to watch the hockey game on the tube rather than a crowd in the street? That's a number for sure we'll never get.

      think about it

      Jun 30, 2011 at 11:08am

      Raise the drinking age to 30,(or anyone 25 and under must be in the presence of an Adult over 30 when they are Downtown) since so many have said that it was the alcohol and lack of judgment. Obviously, it just confirms they need supervision. Just try this during the summer and you will quickly see how fast they will grow up and start behaving like responsible adults.


      Jun 30, 2011 at 11:36am

      What do you give up when you have a police force covering a sprawling region - when a cop can go from Langley to the downtown eastside to West Van? Chances are, each cop will have less of a familiarity with each neighborhood, and less of a sense of belonging to a community. Police work better when they're highly localized.

      The RCMP have an inordinate amount of problems: many of these are due to the fact that officers are moved around the country from post to post. They are not so much a part of the community as they are an occupation force, and that shows in the force's culture. Similarly, the US has a lot of experience with large regional police forces, and the results aren't great. They have a lot more problems with police brutality.

      Let's put the riot in perspective: at most, it resulted in damages of $5M. The social response to the riot was, despite the excesses, a largely positive thing: a community found itself assaulted, and fought back. A great number of people learned some valuable social lessons.

      If we'd have deployed 5000 cops, it would have cost the same as the riot. If we deployed the cops for two nights, it would have doubled the cost of the riot.

      I seriously hope that the Canucks go to game 7 of the Stanley Cup next year, because however it goes, there won't be another riot: the lesson has been learned. This is of far more value to society than an army of regional police on constant standby.

      glen p robbins

      Jun 30, 2011 at 11:51am

      It strikes me as more than a little ironic how much similarity there is between the conduct of the leaders - and discussions of issues - triggered by the criminal actions of folks - mostly drunk - and people one sees who suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. Both groups suffer from significant denial - which provokes the desire to rationalize --- with no impetus toward finding a solution to a problem.

      A pretty complicated and convuluted system in which to be forced to invest ones capital.


      Jun 30, 2011 at 12:04pm

      Or... just call in support (like they had with the Olympics) when there is a huge event like the Stanley Cup on the go.

      Do we really need MORE police on a day to day basis?


      Jun 30, 2011 at 1:15pm

      I'm just as opposed to increasing the number of police as anyone. But creating a regional police force does not necessarily mean more police officers will be hired. People need to think about how unfair the current system is to the City of Vancouver and the people who live and pay taxes in Vancouver. In the City of Vancouver you have your own municipal police force, the VPD, paid for entirely by the City, funded through property taxes. These are the cops who patrol Granville Street downtown. During the Stanley Cup riots, and actually during any given Friday or Saturday night, the majority of the people partying downtown and going to the night clubs actually do not live in the City of Vancouver and do not pay property taxes or rent in the City of Vancouver. So what this means is that the property tax payers in the City of Vancouver are paying for police who are actually policing people from the suburbs who come downtown to party. Effectively what's happening is the City of Vancouver is subsidizing the suburbs. Is the solution to stop suburban kids from coming downtown and making the downtown an exclusive zone for the rich who can afford to live there? I don't like that solution. We have to recognize that Downtown Vancouver is effectively the downtown for the entire metropolitan region. People from Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam all go downtown for jobs and for recreation. But these suburbanites are not paying for the policing that goes on downtown. Aren't property taxes high enough in the City of Vancouver? And don't tell me renters don't pay property taxes because they do because landlords just pass it on to them in their rents. So at least a little part of the reason as to why housing is so expensive in the City of Vancouver is the high property taxes. Property taxes are generally lower in the suburbs than in Vancouver, and consequently the rents are lower too. So this balkanization of police forces into separate police forces for each municipality means that the City of Vancouver taxpayers and renters are effectively subsidizing lower property tax rates in the suburbs. How can that be justified? It totally runs contrary to the principles of EcoDensity because it makes the central city less affordable and contributes to people moving out to the suburbs. This is an issue not just in terms of policing but in terms of all sorts of services provided by the city. Just think about the Vancouver Park Board and how much that costs Vancouver taxpayers even though a great number of people using the parks in Vancouver again are people coming in from the suburbs. We need to move beyond this parochialism in Vancouver and move towards amalgamation not just of the police but of the municipal boundaries. We need a mega city amalgamation like what they did in Toronto in the 1990s.


      Jun 30, 2011 at 2:02pm

      Because my last comment was a bit rambling, I just want to make it clear that I do not think it is fair that property tax payers in the City of Vancouver are paying for policing and other city services that are actually being used by people from the suburbs when they come downtown to party. It would be like people in the State of Washington receiving treatment in BC hospitals but not having to pay MSP premiums. I mean if that were happening people would be outraged. Somehow when it happens in terms of city services the people of Vancouver don't even bat an eye. I think because people here are used to it, they don't realize how bizarre it is that we have something like 22 different municipalities in Metro Vancouver even though socially and economically we function as a single city. I'm all for amalgamation. It would also cut down admin costs--we pay for all the overhead for 22 different city halls and 22 different management teams when you could just pay for one?