Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beat the drum for accountability

Feeble, at best. Asinine, at worst.

I am talking about the Vancouver Police Department's baseless blame-the-media-for-the-Stanley Cup-riot response to the revelation that Liquor Control and Licensing Board general manager Karen Ayers warned the Deputy Solicitor General of "pre-riotous behaviour" during the Stanley Cup final.

"Most of the reporting on the riot and the aftermath has been accurate and insightful, but some has been misleading and inflammatory – suggestions that LCLB documents reveal prior knowledge of a riot falls squarely into the latter category.

"We are concerned about stories created that choose to inflame the rhetoric about the riot based on wrong information, as we were originally concerned by stories and reporters who beat the drum most loudly inciting crowds to gather in the first place. We would respectfully ask that facts be checked and confirmed."

To Chief Jim "No Clue" Chu, I dedicate the above "Beat the Drum" video by Great Big Sea.

I can't think of any of my colleagues or competitors in any part of the British Columbia media who "beat the drum" for unruly behaviour by any hockey fans in June 2011. On the contrary, the message given was to celebrate safely. No matter how important the series, no matter how much we'd all like to see a Stanley Cup parade in Vancouver someday, it is just a game.

Click here for my Tweet on June 13, when I was beating the drum for a civil celebration by offering a cautionary reminder of the ugly legacy of 1994's riot.

CKNW reporter James Lewis challenged Chu on Sept. 24 to clarify the clarification and to explain whether he agreed with the blame-the-media statement and whether he authorized it. Chu gave Lewis, who asked the right questions, the cold shoulder. Read the story and hear the clip here.

Ayers is the first-known public official to use a variation of the R-word. She did so in an email, three days before the Stanley Cup riot, to justify her decision to close downtown Vancouver liquor stores early on June 13 and June 15. Here are excerpts from her notes, obtained under Freedom of Information (see the full document below):

June 10

Vancouver Police Dep. Chief Doug Le Pard
"Not at tipping point… need to look at tonight and do hard level of enforce…"

Transit Police Mike Purdy
"Riot '94 t-shirts (observed)…"

June 12

D&B (Donna Lister and Bruce Edmundson of LCLB)
"Post-game went wild… by this point, police so overwhelmed… open consumption (of liquor)… demographics different than Olympics, majority 16-30… like a zombie movie…."

Le Pard
"biggest crowds ever… bigger than Olympics… scariest crush of people… way more itox (intoxication) than other nights… pretty rowdy later on, fights, violence… building to finale…"

"Transit never seen so much liquor…

Mike (last name not legible), B.C. Ambulance Service
"Just shy of gold medal…. not family oriented like Olympics…"

Dave Nelms
"Lots more problems… off power poles, glass bus shelters… more broken glass… being more violent."

My Sept. 21 story in touched-off a firestorm of controversy and put the Vancouver Police into damage control. VPD is in full "protect the chief mode." Chief Jim Chu, you will remember, told Mike Howell of the Vancouver Courier before Game 7 that there would be no riot. Afterwards, he claimed there was no intelligence to suggest a riot was likely.

Ayers had consulted with various officials before making her decision, including Deputy Chief Doug Le Pard. Le Pard was on a conference call with Ayers, junior liquor control officials, Transit Police officers, St. Paul's Hospital representatives and B.C. Ambulance Service officials.

The question is this: if a bureaucrat could reasonably conclude that there was the potential for a booze-fuelled, Stanley Cup-related riot in Vancouver last June, why didn't the police?

I'm talking about the same police force that so concerned with the huge crowds and level of drunkenness and violence during the 2010 Winter Olympics that it asked the RCMP for urgent help.

I'm talking about the same police force in the city that had a riot on the night of Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final.

B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch documents about the 2011 Stanley Cup riot

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