Chief Constable Jim Chu
Participating in a riot – that’s the charge we are going for. Not just mischief, not just looting, but participating in a riot.
It’s a tougher charge to prove but it is the most serious offence. We are not pulling our punches; we’re going for the most serious charges we can get.
I think I speak for all of us when I say that what happened on the night of June 15th is so repugnant to the people of our community that the instigators and participants in this riot must be punished to the full extent of the law.
I’ve heard many times, “This person has turned himself into the police, and admitted his crime. So why is it taking so long to bring him before the courts?”
My own daughter asked me the same question.
I have no intention of giving you a justice lecture, but perhaps I can make this clearer with a simple example. It does relate to the charge of participating in a riot.
Take a look at a picture from the riot where many people are participating in damaging a police car.
Let’s suppose two persons turn themselves in. They both plead guilty to the charges of mischief (damaging a car) and participating in a riot.
Well right now, both know the police haven’t processed the 1600 hours of video. Both could say in court that they only did this one bad act and that they should be treated with leniency.
While that might be true for one of the men in this picture, for the other accused, we may find out months from now after we have reviewed the video that he was an instigator and engaged in many more serious acts.
But since the court will already have dealt with the rioting charge because he pleaded guilty early, we can’t charge him with rioting again because of the legal rule of “double jeopardy.”
In essence, someone who has committed a multitude of rioting related acts could use the “rush to justice” to evade being held accountable and punished for these other serious acts. Rushing the case to court means that the judge has no way of knowing if this is an isolated act, or part of a pattern of serious rioting.
That is why we want to do a full and thorough investigation before we bring a suspect to court. That is our job and our duty.
It may be true that a person in this picture engaged only in this one act of property damage. And if that is the case, then the courts may appropriately decide on a lighter penalty. But someone who engaged in many more acts of destruction and violence should not get a free pass because he pleaded guilty before the police uncovered the other riotous acts he committed.
Speedy “justice” may well be, in the end, no justice at all.
The best way to ensure proper accountability is to ensure all of the relevant evidence is placed before the courts – when the investigation is complete.
If we rush a riot charge, it’s to the suspect’s advantage because he’s not held accountable for everything he has done. Why would any of us want that?
If you are in favour of rushing to justice, you are in favour of less accountability, likely more acquittals and definitely lighter sentences for the most serious of offenders.
That’s what we’re after, plain and simple: nothing less than as many riot related charges as we can prove.
To accomplish that goal we are going to do something we have never done before.
Today, we are turning the front page of our annual report into an investigative tool to reach out to the public and ask them to help us identify some of the people involved in the riot.
You know that normally our annual report comes out at this time each year and we discuss the crime rate and how we did from the year before.
I am still going to offer you those crime stats, but as you can see, the focus of the front page this year is all about the riot and our investigation.
And that’s just the beginning.
In a moment, I am going to ask Inspector Les Yeo to outline another historic move the Department is making by launching a website entirely dedicated to the riot investigation.
You’ll find these ten pictures there and another 30 images of suspects whom we would like to identify. And we have more where they came from – over the coming weeks more pictures will be added.
With the help of the Vancouver Sun, which partners with us each year on distributing our Annual Report, we hope to reach half a million people with these images.
We know that on average about 60,000 people visit our website each month. We are hoping that with this interactive web page that many more people will visit to help us reach our goal of identifying these suspects.
Remember, we are not going for the silver or the consolation prize of a light sentence or an acquittal. We want these people to be charged with participating in a riot and sentenced for the full degree of their participation in the riot.
If you want the same, I’m asking for your help.
I did mention that this is the time of year when we share our crime stats. I am very pleased to tell you that our total crimes fell about five per cent last year and so far this year we are already down more than five per cent.