The Vancouver police investigation into the Stanley Cup riot of June 15 has allowed its infatuation with a new video technology to delay the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. The police adopted a charge-everyone-for-everything approach, made possible by a new technology in Indianapolis, but after 4½ months have charged no one. Even a long-promised announcement of charges on Monday turned out to be only a recommendation of charges, to be reviewed by the Crown. Actual charges could still be weeks or months away.
This is the same police department that was unaware, according to a public inquiry report, of the dangerous, drunken, oversized crowd forming in the early afternoon hours, because it was looking on Facebook for advance warning instead of being out in the streets. Perhaps it should rethink its love of technology.
Chief Constable Jim Chu said the force acted properly in refusing to be rushed. He said, for instance, that rather than charge a man who came forward to admit to vandalizing a car, police found video evidence that the man had vandalized six cars and committed three break and enters.
The question is whether promptness in laying charges produces a greater deterrent and a stronger answer to the chaos of that night, and whether the technology (which stitches together all video sources into one giant 5,000-hour video, and is searchable at high speeds) should be used to supplement, rather than replace, a conventional approach. Additional charges could be laid later, contrary to Vancouver Police Department claims of double jeopardy or abuse of process.
Britain charged more than a thousand people within a few days of its riots, and the courts were extremely tough on people who participated in any way – whether vandalizing six cars or one.
It is still unclear what the Crown and the courts will conclude about the video technology. The Vancouver police claim they can identify a leg kicking in a window, if the person attached to the leg has been identified elsewhere on the videotape. Similarly, it claims it can identify a masked person. Beyond a reasonable doubt?
The wonders of technology have blinded the VPD once again – this time to the city’s need for swift justice.