Vancouver’s police chief says he wants to charge more people in his city’s Stanley Cup riot last June than the Toronto police charged in the G20 riots in the summer of 2010. Is this an equivalent of the Stanley Cup for police departments? Will the fans be invited downtown to watch on giant screens?
“In Toronto they laid 317 charges after the G20. Our goal is to surpass that,” said Chief Constable Jim Chu, promising to start charging people in late October.
The hockey season starts in less than two weeks, no charges have been laid except in a couple of stabbings, and the chief is talking as if the police were going to win some thrilling competition. In fact, Mr. Chu’s department is on the verge of losing, and doesn’t realize it.
The moment has largely passed. The time for the department to make a public statement – that justice is swift, that people will be held accountable – has dribbled away. With scores of officers and officials from the Crown’s office allegedly working on an investigation together, the police and prosecutors have found countless excuses for not doing as British police did this summer in charging more than 1,000 people within days of the London riots. Even the 70 people who came forward to the Vancouver police to admit their guilt have not been charged because, said Chief Constable Chu, they might have done something more than they confessed to.
But wait – if a man confesses to throwing a rock through a store window, and it turns out he also threw a rock at a human being, couldn’t he be charged for that rock, too? Of course.
And if the police didn’t nab every possible miscreant out of the mob of thousands, would that be so terrible? Of course not. No one expects a mob to be held accountable down to the last thief of barbecue utensils. The imperative was to charge some – the big, the small – when it mattered most, so that justice could be done and seen to be done (or at least begun), as Vancouver sought to recover its sense of reason and lawfulness after the mass hooliganism of June 15. Even one charge would have been nice.
Vancouver police investigators are now off to Indianapolis to work with experts in video technology. The investigation is taking on the aura of a PhD thesis that never quite gets done.
The number of charges is no more important than the number of points Vancouver Canucks got in the regular season; they got the most, and still lost the big game.