It shouldn't take an independent review to tell the Mayor of Vancouver, and the wider public, how many police officers were on the streets to protect the city after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, and how many were brought in as things went from bad to worse to worser. All it takes is a police chief who understands what his job is. This is not the stuff of state secrets, as Vancouver Police Department Chief Jim Chu seems to think. How on earth could it be, after the event? Things went terribly awry, and the people of Vancouver have a right to know why.
But a review is soon to begin, and the number will surely come out; if it doesn't, the inquiry will be a mockery.
Here are some questions that Doug Keefe, a former deputy justice minister of Nova Scotia, and his co-chair, former Vancouver Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong, should attempt to answer in the provincial review:
The party: Can Vancouver have a big public party without the thugs taking over? Are the "live sites" (open spaces for revellers) and big-screen televisions used during the playoffs something that could be used again?
The numbers: In last year's hockey playoffs, the police budgeted for 332 officers for the final rounds (the team lost in the first round), according to documents obtained by The Globe.
The thinking was that 300 to 340 officers had been enough for Edmonton and Calgary in similar situations. This year, police asked for about one-third less money. How many police were on the streets? How many more came, and how quickly? How many more would have been optimal?
The "anarchists and criminals": How many in the mob came with malice, and weapons, aforethought? Are anarchists and criminals a convenient scapegoat? Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was shocked at "how readily many hundreds of people took up arms to attack the city after being instigated by some very focused trouble-makers." How many instigators lit how many matches, how did the fire spread, and what is the smartest and safest way to intervene between match and fire?
The unpreparedness: Why did the police seem caught by surprise despite the disquieting signs after Game 5 and open drunkenness as early as noon on packed streets on the day of the riot? What could police do to take the initiative? Were the police right to back off from early confrontations?
The police had a difficult job to do, and deserve the public's sympathy, but Chief Chu has been defensive and has refused to answer basic questions. With all the assaults, stabbings and projectiles flying, it was lucky no one died. Before the next party/riot, Mr. Keefe and Mr. Furlong should answer the questions that the mayor can't, and the VPD won't.