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Vancouver releases Cup Final riot investigation results

by Corey Masisak
Two months of investigation into the events that transpired the night of June 15 in Vancouver have led 53 recommendations for future preparation and prevention of events like the riot that occurred after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, according to the report released Thursday by an independent review.

The review, co-chaired by former Nova Scotia deputy attorney general Douglas J. Keefe, QC and former head of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, John Furlong, concluded the main problems on the night of the riot were too many people in the downtown core and too much alcohol involved.

The report stated that 446 police officers were scheduled to be on duty that night, not counting the typical downtown patrols, but that number swelled to 928.

The report's authors concluded that 446 would have been enough to maintain control of the expected crowd, but far more people than were expected showed up -- an estimated 155,000.

"No plausible number of police" would have prevented the riot from igniting considering the unexpected conditions (size of the crowd, early arrival and amount of alcohol consumed), according to the report.

"Why did the riot occur? The riot occurred because villains and thugs acted up," Keefe said during a press conference at a Vancouver hotel Thursday. "The more valuable question is how did they get the edge? How did they get the opening to do that?

"There were too many people -- not too many people for the police but too many people for the venue. ... They were too drunk. Alcohol sales that day were 68 percent higher than they were the year previous on the same Wednesday."

There were other problems, according to the report.

The response plan may have been sound, but police deployment happened to slow as the large crowd began gathering downtown earlier in the afternoon than anticipated.

"VPD's crowd management strategy is good but is predicated on setting and maintaining a tone of responsible celebration," the report said. "The opportunity to set a tone passed before there were enough officers to set it and congestion prevented its later imposition. But it is likely that, even if police presence had been established early, it could not have been maintained in the congested streets."

Another issue was communication once the riot began.

Keefe said the order to switch to tactical gear was given at the right time, but because of the congestion and poor communication it took up to 40 minutes to implement the order for some units.

There were suggestions for everyone involved among the 53 recommendations, including local and regional law enforcement and government as well as the Vancouver Canucks and the National Hockey League.

The report urges the Canucks and the League to implement programs and activities to promote year-round sportsmanship and responsible fan behavior during celebrations. It also suggested the NHL should partner with host cities and its franchises to "ensure the best, safest public celebrations possible."

"We believe there is a role for the Vancouver Canucks to play; we believe there is a role for the National Hockey League to play," Furlong said. "We believe for there's a role for volunteers. We believe that all of the communities around -- everyone needs to be part of the solution."

Keefe and Furlong's findings include the idea of limiting the sale of alcohol at events like this in the future will be critical, as well as better monitoring of people who try to bring alcohol with them on public transportation.

They also called for the Attorney General to set up a special court to specifically deal with crimes that stem from a riot.

"We feel that a riot is an offense against a community," Keefe said. "Just like breaking into and looting stores is not 200 acts of shoplifting going on at once -- it is terrorism."

Social media could also play a major role in preventing chaos at future events, the report said.

People who wanted to leave the scene peacefully received bad information or simply didn't know where to go. The report calls for the development of "Twitter-like social media communication tools" to help get correct information to people in congested areas.

Other recommendations included a "Major Events Planning Team" for the city and a regional event public safety plan when the scope of an event reaches beyond the city.

"It has to have a regional eye to do this properly," Furlong said. "We think that's possible if there is a will. We hope the recommendations lead to people taking some of this on so that we can improve at this so that next year, and there is a very good chance because the Vancouver Canucks are currently the favorites to win the Stanley Cup [in 2012], that this crowd is coming again and that we can have an event that people would walk away from and feel that it was a joyous and wonderful occasion."
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