No 'excessive force' complaints filed after Stanley Cup riot

Lawyer says complaint process strongly 'favours police'

Nearly a month after the Stanley Cup riot, no complaints for excessive use of force have been lodged against the Vancouver Police Department or RCMP for their actions on the night of June 15, according to spokesmen from both police organizations.

Const. Lindsey Houghton of the VPD and Sgt. Rob Vermeulen of the RCMP declined to speculate Monday on reasons for the lack of complaints and suggested answers could come after the B.C. government-ordered independent review is completed Aug. 31.

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But two of the citys police watchdogs, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Pivot Legal Society, have their own theories on a night in which police were overwhelmed by rioters downtown.

To me it suggests the people involved in the riot are not the type of people who we typically service, which is the lower income side of the city, said Doug King, a Pivot lawyer, who represents residents in the Downtown Eastside. Its definitely been unique and interesting for us because I did expect to get at least some calls. I expected to hear from people who were caught in the middle of it and trying to leave and something bad happened to them but I havent heard from anyone.

The lack of complaints is in contrast to the 52 filed against police after the APEC riot in 1997 at the University of B.C. A smaller number of complaints was filed against officers after the so-called Guns n Roses riot in 2002 and the Riot at the Hyatt in 1998.

David Eby, executive director of the civil liberties association, said the lack of complaints is probably a function of people being very embarrassed that they were down thereeven the guy who got hit with the flash grenade.

At least 60 businesses were trashed and 15 vehicles were torched on a night where hundreds of officers clashed with rioters after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Eby said some people could have genuine complaints against the police but wont bother to file a formal complaint because they dont believe it will be handled properly.

Unlike Ontario, which has an independent squad that investigates police complaints, police investigate police in British Columbia. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner oversees such investigations.

When people call us, we give them the straight goods on the complaint process, which is it is not a good process and it favours police very strongly, Eby said. But [with the riot], the most likely explanation is the obvious, which is that people dont want other people to know that they were down there.

The VPD has declined to release the number of officers who worked the night of the riot but confirmed in a Vancouver Police Board meeting on the day of the riot that 100 Mounties would be part of the operational plan. A smaller number of officers from municipal departments such as Delta and Abbotsford also worked that night.

In terms of a public order disaster like the riot, and the number of police officers out there and the number of members of the public who had physical interactions with police, to have zero complaints to our office or even zero phone calls to me is really unusual, Eby added.

mhowell@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Howellings

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