Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Aug. 22, 2011)

Tale of 2 cities

By Bob Cooper




In the days following the Stanley Cup Riot the only thing as disgusting as the images was the crass exploitation by some politicians, particularly the Premier.  Christy Clark was screaming for quick justice and demanding that the rioters ‘see the inside of a jail cell’.  Then her handlers took her to the front of the Bay so she could shovel broken glass with commoners for a 3 minute photo-op hoping to look like Winston Churchill walking through the rubble in London after the blitz.  Now some might call this bold leadership in troubled times however, the fact that she now presides over and was previously part of a government that’s spent the last ten years slashing and gutting BC’s criminal justice system means that history won’t likely be placing her beside Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt.  Ditto Mayor Robertson, vowing that “these people will be held accountable” in order to deflect attention from the fact that he was in charge of planning the whole thing, particularly the CBC site which was to become the flashpoint.

So they appointed Doug Keefe, a former deputy justice minister from Nova Scotia to examine the riot and report back at the end of August.  Fair enough, the inquiry should be completely independent and Keefe has been involved in several major inquiries in Nova Scotia so he has the experience and credentials.  A few days later, what’s been described as a chance encounter with the Premier leads to the appointment of former 2010 Olympic boss John Furlong as ‘co-chair’.  As inquiries go, Mr. Furlong is a little light on experience and credentials but he’s a good friend of the Liberal Party and has name recognition.  All you need in British Columbia these days.

At the same time the City of Vancouver set up its own internal review with City Manager Penny Ballem in charge.  Given that her actions prior to and during the riot make her a ‘person of interest’ as the cops are fond of saying these days, this led to many an arched eyebrow in the ranks of the VPD and the feeling that ‘the fix’ was definitely in.

As July turned into August, memories of the Riot began to fade, to the delight of certain key officials, who would have enjoyed the rest of the summer but for the riots in the UK that began in London and spread to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and Bristol.

The Vancouver press woke up and realized they had a story that really sat up and worked, with statistical comparisons that were as stark as they were inevitable.  What it all came down to was that in the UK over 1000 people have already been charged.  In Vancouver?  Zero.

To counter the perception of a feeble criminal justice system, the usual apologists were trotted out and made vague pronouncements about different cities, different justice systems, different courts, etc, until Chief Chu mentioned that in the UK they “don’t have a lengthy charge approval process”.  Bingo.

Being the Chief, he’s loathe to come out and criticize the process so I’ve done it for him in a previous column (Charge approval (or not)) which I’ll let speak for itself but when he says ‘lengthy’ he means it.

The Chief advises rioters to take no solace in the delay because it may take months but the police will eventually be knocking on their door.  In this, he’s not kidding.  The investigation is being led by Inspector Les Yeo and Sergeant Dale Weidman both of whom are outstanding detectives and will make sure the job gets done and no rioter is left behind.

Once that’s done, watch what happens when the cases start going to court.  In the UK, the magistrates are hammering these people, including two men who got four years each for inciting a riot on Facebook.  If past experience is any indicator, expect a very different result here.

London Drugs President and CEO Wynne Powell has announced that they are going after those who sacked their Granville & Georgia location in civil court and I say good on him for standing up and fighting back as it may be the only real justice meted out.  If I were him I’d also have my lawyers take a close look at City Hall’s role in the whole thing.  A lot of cops I know would relish the thought of Subpoenas, Bibles, and Rolaids being passed out at 12th & Cambie.

Yes, our justice system is different from Britain’s but one should remember that ours was directly descended from theirs.  We just screwed ours up and they didn’t.

Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011