Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'We're sorry'

Police chief apologizes to 'heroic' citizens, premier wants to see jail time for rioters

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Vancouver's chief of police apologized Friday to the brave people who -- at great personal risk -- faced down howling mobs trashing cars and storefronts during Wednesday's post-game riot.

"We are sorry that we couldn't back you up," Chief Jim Chu said at a news conference updating how the city is dealing with the aftermath of the violent mayhem that broke out after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

Chu praised the "truly heroic" citizens who protected people and buildings without police assistance. "I know we have training and protective gear and all of you didn't."

Meanwhile, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark pledged the government would provide funding to catch and prosecute those responsible for the riot Wednesday night that left sections of the city in shambles.

Without offering full details, the premier said the government will ensure police agencies have the adequate resources to conduct their investigations and that the courts have the proper support as the cases make their way through the system.

She said the provincial Crown-owned Insurance Corp. of British Columbia has made its face-recognition software available to the investigation process, which she noted will be cross-jurisdictional.

"This investigation needs to happen quickly, it needs to be decisive, it needs to be well done and the provincial resources will be there to make sure it happens," she said.

The promises come as questions are being asked as to whether or not policing numbers for Game 7 had been adequate -- given the expected crowd turnout -- and if the city had been properly prepared.

Chu admitted Friday he would have handled Wednesday's riot differently, had he known then what he knows now.

"When you review the riot, even among my own officers, there's lots of could-haves, should-haves," he said.

"Knowing what I know now, there's many things I would've done differently," Chu said when asked whether cars should been banned from streets in the downtown core during the game -- something that was suggested in an analysis commissioned by the B.C. government in the wake of the 1994 riot that followed another Canucks loss in a Stanley Cup final.

While Chu did not explicitly say he would have kept cars away, he did say he would have put more officers on duty in the outdoor area where a crowd of about 100,000 people watched the game on big-screen TVs.

Clark also said she wants those who participated in the rioting and looting to face jail time, not just a slap on the wrist, so that the message is clear: Vancouver isn't the kind of place where you can get away with this kind of thing.

Six rioters have now turned themselves in to the police, one man faces criminal charges and police expect to recommend many more charges as the investigation into the post-game riot deepens, Chu said.

He said the "hockey riot" investigation team of about 30 city police, RCMP and other municipal police officers is expected to grow as police collect more evidence on the crowd that looted stores, vandalized buildings and torched cars in the downtown core.

The Vancouver Police Department web server crashed Thursday after being overwhelmed with nearly 2,000 videos, photos and other tips related to the post-game destruction -- and police expect to receive hundreds of thousands more tips in coming weeks, VPD Const. Jana McGuinness said.

A 17-year-old Burnaby, B.C. teen -- who cannot be identified because of his age -- turned himself in to police after images of him looting a Vancouver store during the Stanley Cup riot were splashed across the Internet.

The teen is scheduled to appear in court in August on charges of break and enter and theft, and mischief to property over $5,000.

McGuinness called on others involved in the post-game riots to turn themselves in to police because "above and beyond anything else, it's the right thing to do.

"(Or) you can wait until we come and find you. Because we will find you."

Chu thanked community members for the outpouring of support directed at Vancouver's emergency services staff involved in the riot, noting that many of his officers have been offered hugs and cups of coffee in the street. He also said the department's dog squad got a "nice treat" as well -- several bags of organic dog food left at their station Friday morning.

Officers also found one of their cruisers covered from roof to fenders in sticky notes by citizens expressing gratitude for their efforts.

"You did protect us," reads a message from Port Coquitlam, B.C.'s Janice Staryk. "It's humbling and overwhelming that the awful deeds of a few... are not going to outweigh all the good of the people here in this city."

 

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2011 A13

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