Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive June 17, 2011)

A ‘Challenge’

By Bob Cooper




Hours before the start of Game 7 Vancouver’s Chief Constable Jim Chu told a reporter “There’s not going to be a riot”.  Bet he wishes he could have those words back this morning.  One of the most basic lessons in media relations is to take some caution in the promises you make.  In other words don’t let your mouth write cheques that your ass can’t cash.

There are a lot of questions about whether there were enough cops deployed downtown and whether the decision to transition from “Meet and Greet” to “Hats & Bats” was made quickly enough and I’ve been hearing them from cops all day.  From what I saw on the news the cops who were in the middle of this without any protective gear did the very best they could against impossible odds and I’m very proud of them.  Apart from a suggestion that the police dogs be replaced with bears in these situations I’m going to wait for another day on the Operations side and instead concentrate on an underlying issue that led up to this.

The following passage appeared in Ethan Baron's June 16 column in the Province:

After watching frenzied hooligans smashing out the windows of a Bank of Montreal, after seeing them flip and smash two police cars then set them on fire, after watching fight after fight after fight against a backdrop of riot police and burning vehicles, I caught up with a disgusted Vancouver policeman who about said it all:  “People complain that this is a ‘No Fun City,’” said Const. Colin Naismith, lifting up his riot-protection mask. “Well, they had their chance. This is what happens when you let the floodgates open.” 

Rather vindicates Anne Drennan I’d say. 

My hat’s off to PC Naismith for speaking his mind because I’m hearing that information being given out these days by the VPD is micromanaged like never before and there is little tolerance for going ‘off message’.  (Don’t worry son, the next Chief will promote you.  I was living proof that they have short memories.)  Any stories that could in any way reflect poorly on the Stanley Cup Final were suppressed like the fact that 3 police officers were seriously injured in separate incidents while policing Stanley Cup events.  Any time a police officer is injured on duty it’s always been announced but not this time.  When the press discovered these incidents as they always do (another media relations lesson the bosses never seem to learn) the fallback position was to minimize them.  In this case they were described as ‘”hiccups”.  These “hiccups” included a serious concussion and a broken nose.  You can imagine how that played in the locker room.

Even last night when things were in full swing, a VPD spokesperson refused to use the word ‘riot’ instead characterizing it as a “challenge”.  I don’t blame her at all.  She was just reading the script she was given by ranking people above her who were whistling past the graveyard and should have known better.

One cop who phoned me today complained of the current interference and influence by the Mayor and the City Manager in the VPD in ways they’d never have dared in the past.   There’s a very good reason that politicians are kept at arm’s length from the police but Penny Ballem in particular is a control freak who brooks no dissent and makes her former employer Gordon Campbell look like a free spirit.

This was nothing more than City Hall being bound & determined to relive their 2010 Olympic glory days and no one in the VPD having the balls of PC Naismith and being willing to speak up and tell them that bringing 100,000 people into the downtown area, in warm sunny weather, where many were drinking all day is just a really stupid idea.  Expecting the police to be able to control a situation like that was really rolling the dice.  They got away with it for a while by controlling the message and talked the public and apparently themselves into a state of complacency.  Like the Canucks, their luck held all the way to Game 7.

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.



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