Following the events of June 15, 2011, media attention has focused on the number of police on the streets that night. Debate appears to be raging over whether the number was too small and what should have been the “correct” number. While the debate is always worthwhile having, it is important to remember that there is no “correct” number.
Numbers are based on experience and threat assessment. Assessments are based on intelligence and that information can change from minute to minute. Threats assessed as “medium” can easily be raised as they were on June 15th or lowered. The resources available remain the same.
Realistically, there is no plausible number of police that could have been deployed that would have prevented this riot. Nor can anyone predict with 100 per cent certainty whether a riot will occur. Toronto had many more police, drawn from across the country, on the streets for the G20 and they still had a riot.
The Vancouver Police Department has a long and proud track record of safely policing large events in our city. Our reputation for restraint and public safety is built on our successes with crowds larger than the Stanley Cup such as the summer fireworks and the Winter Olympics.
The number of police on the streets for the final Stanley Cup game was about the same as it was for the gold medal hockey game in the Olympics.
Let us be clear about the comparisons being made with deployments for the Olympics. It is true that about 5,000 officers were brought in from other jurisdictions for the Olympic Games, but those officers were for deployment by the Integrated Security Unit inside venues from Richmond to Whistler. The Vancouver Police Department policed the streets of Vancouver, with some assistance from the ISU in the final days.
Our Ops Plan for the Stanley Cup finals was just that — a plan. Plans change and numbers change as they did that night. Medium threat assessments are changed to high and numbers deployed swell from resources available that are standing by. It’s all part of the plan.
Our policy of not releasing numbers of officers deployed is to protect the safety of officers and the public.
For those who stand outside the fray the view is always crystal clear. But the fact still remains that the number of police on the street the night of June 15, “correct” or not, quelled a violent crowd of 30,000 people in three hours without major injuries or a single complaint of excessive force or unlawful arrest. Our goal once the riot began was to protect lives, end it as quickly as possible and make sure everyone, including police, got home safely.
We look forward to the upcoming review and we will cooperate fully. We also will take any lessons learned and implement them.