Hockey Riot 2011
Statement by Chief Constable Jim Chu
June 16, 2011
Thank you for coming this morning and I would also like to welcome Assistant Fire Chief Wade Pierlot.
For weeks many of you have been asking us on a daily basis whether we would have a repeat of the ‘94 riot if the Canucks lost.
The stories that were produced were often cringe inducing.
And for weeks we predicted this day, this nightmare, this shame, would never come.
Despite those predictions, behind the scenes we had always been preparing for the worst.
Last night those preparations became a reality as we quickly switched from a meet-and-greet tactic to one of crowd dispersal and crowd safety.
For those who regularly reminded us of 1994, they will also hopefully report that while we had triple the number of rioters last night, we were able to bring the situation under control in half the time it took us back then.
We learned many lessons in 1994 and we will take away more from this experience as we examine every aspect of last night over the coming weeks and months.
Before I get into some of the details of last night, I would like to say how proud I am of our members who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others and do everything we could to ensure that everyone got home safely.
We were not without casualties. Nine of our officers were injured. One officer required 14 stitches to the head to close a wound he suffered after being hit by a thrown brick while he was trying to stop some looters. Another suffered a concussion and some officers were treated for human bites.
I am also very proud and grateful to all our partner agencies that joined us on the street. Officers came from the RCMP and every municipality in the Lower Mainland. Our colleagues in the ambulance service and the fire service also went beyond the call risking their safety to restore sanity to the streets.
I am also aware that many off-duty VPD officers, who may have just completed an earlier shift, saw the trouble on the TV and took it upon themselves to leave their homes, get in their cars and join their colleagues in the streets.
Before I discuss the criminals, anarchists and thugs who were bent on destruction and mayhem, I want to recognize those in the crowd who showed humanity, integrity and courage.
When trouble first broke out at a live site, police tried to wade through the massive crowd to rescue someone who was injured on the ground. A group of citizens within the increasingly agitated crowd linked arms to create a barrier around the injured person so police could make the rescue.
Throughout the night we saw other examples of citizens standing between the looters and the broken store windows.
Our lines were flooded and continue to be flooded today with tips from Vancouverites who want to help.
Doctors in the crowd stepped forward to help with the injured. Our downtown hospitals also performed in an outstanding fashion.
But even with those assets in place, our city was still vulnerable to a number of young men and women disguised as Canuck fans who were actually criminals and anarchists.
These were people who came equipped with masks, goggles, gasoline and even fire extinguishers that they would use as weapons.
We recognized some of the same criminals among them who took part in the vandalism during the Olympics.
This criminal element within the crowd was responsible for the burning of 15 cars, including two police cars.
As you saw there was also extensive property damage and looting.
Our hearts go out to those businesses, especially the small ones, who suffered crippling losses last night. We understand that these types of losses can be devastating.
For those watching in disbelief and shock at home and wondering why police were not immediately arresting the looters, with apologies to business owners who became the victims of these criminals, our plan and our priority must always be the safety of the crowd over the safety of buildings and property.
Our members temporarily left hot spots so they could re-group in larger units to have sufficient numbers to safely encourage the crowd to disperse, and to take assertive action when they wouldn’t.
We gathered at every major intersection to slowly and safely move the crowd out of the downtown core.
I am pleased that the strategy worked and within three hours the worst was over and most of the crowd had gone home.
But I also want to assure our citizens that no one comes into our city and creates this kind of mayhem and destruction with impunity.
We made close to a hundred arrests last night and we have every intention of making many more as we aggressively investigate this incident.
By 5:00 a.m. this morning we had 120 tips on our tip line.
Members of the public are sending us their videos and we are adding those to the thousands of minutes of video we shot ourselves.
We are fully committed to tracking down these criminals and arresting them for their crimes.
I am pleased to tell you that our partner agencies have agreed to make this an integrated investigation so we will be able to bring all our resources to bear in swiftly apprehending those responsible.
I know that the Premier has committed the full weight of the Criminal Justice System to vigorously prosecute those who broke the law.
We understand and empathize with those in our community who are mourning the loss of the Stanley Cup, and those here at home and across our country who are mourning the loss of reputation we have all suffered at the hands of these criminals.
But I now urge every one of us to quickly get past this and help us bring these people to justice. That will truly send a message to the world about who we are and what we believe.