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Police lost control of crowd hours before Vancouver riot: Report

VANCOUVER - Police were in a state of confusion and had lost controlof the massive crowd hours before the start of Vancouver's Stanley CupGame 7 loss, says a report reviewing the June 15 riot.

VANCOUVER - Police were in a state of confusion and had lost control
of the massive crowd hours before the start of Vancouver's Stanley Cup
Game 7 loss, says a report reviewing the June 15 riot.


The
report paints a frightening picture of a crowd ballooning out of
control up to three hours before the puck dropped, with thousands of
people unexpectedly packing the city's downtown, many of them already
fuelled with alcohol.


The independent review found the crowd was
larger and arrived much earlier than city or police officials had
anticipated and security efforts were overwhelmed, with one officer
saying that some people who wanted to get away from the crushing crowd
couldn't.


Instead of being in control, police were forced to
react to numerous reports of barricades being breached, people climbing
telephone poles and being forced against barricades in the hours
leading up to the game.


“At 7:46, a Twitter user with the handle
Marimo tweets: 'Get ready for a riot Vancouver.' Bottles fly towards
the blank screen, a planned post-game segment is cancelled to encourage
the crowd to leave,” the report said.


The report's two authors
found that co-operation among the Vancouver Police Department and the
RCMP had improved significantly since the 1994 riot in Vancouver, but
there were still problems.


It takes time for officers to change
into riot gear, but the gear was stashed too far away from the problem
areas and by the time the riot squad got there, the fires were already
burning.


The report found the RCMP commander at the south end of
the crowd had a Vancouver Police radio that didn't work and as a
result, didn't hear the order for officers to get into their riot gear.


This
meant the officers weren't wearing the right equipment for the job they
were suddenly being ordered to do and the RCMP at that end of the riot
ended up being out of radio contact for the rest of the riot.


It
also meant that small groups of RCMP weren't able to get changed into
the gear gradually, meaning when they all had to do it at once, there
was a “major drop” in police presence at that end of the crowd.


Finally,
the report notes that communication with the crowd is considered
crucial to ensure police can encourage people to move on before the
tear gas starts to fly.


But the report found the batteries on
the Vancouver police's loudspeaker hadn't been charged, meaning it
could only work while attached to a police vehicle.


As for the RCMP, their loud hailer malfunctioned so the crowd was not warned that tear gas was coming.


“Communication was not used with this crowd until the situation was out of hand,” the report notes.



The review was done by former Vancouver Olympic committee head John
Furlong and Doug Keefe, a former deputy justice minister in Nova Scotia
and the two conclude the police and civic officials made mistakes in
hindsight, but they said they were unwilling to blame anyone other than
the rioters.


They recommend the province give more powers to
dampen the sale of alcohol for regional events, that a regional
tactical squad made up of the RCMP, the Vancouver police and others
should be formed to deal with such regional events and that a special
court should be established to deal with people accused of rioting.


For
the first time, the report also revealed the Vancouver Police Force had
446 police on the street for Game 7, though that number swelled to 928
by the time the riot was in full swing.

 
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