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.