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John Furlong (L) and Douglas Keefe, co-chairs of the riot review, talk with the press outside the Bay in downtown Vancouver, June 30, 2011. (Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail/Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail)
John Furlong (L) and Douglas Keefe, co-chairs of the riot review, talk with the press outside the Bay in downtown Vancouver, June 30, 2011. (Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail/Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail)

Riot review

Riot review to focus on 'the big ball' Add to ...

The co-chair of the provincial review into the Stanley Cup riot says the number of police officers deployed that night is a "small ball" issue but conceded it may be released in a final report.

Douglas Keefe, a former Nova Scotia deputy attorney-general, was asked about the matter Thursday following a tour of the riot area in downtown Vancouver with his partner in the project, former head of the Vancouver Olympic committee John Furlong.

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"Albert Einstein said not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted, counts," Mr. Keefe told reporters when asked about the police numbers.

The quote is from a sign in Einstein's Princeton University office, but is widely attributed to sociologist William Brice Cameron.

Mr. Keefe and Mr. Furlong met the media beside the Bay downtown, which was attacked by rioters on June 15 after the Canucks were defeated in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. A crowd estimated at about 150,000 was in the city core that night.

For Mr. Keefe, it was a first visit to B.C. since agreeing to begin work on the report. The City of Vancouver and its police department have each started their own investigation into events that night.

"We need to have our eye on the big ball, and the big ball is all about event planning and police deployments are part of that," Mr. Keefe said. "We will be told the famous number, and if telling the story of the deployment requires the number to be put out there, I suppose we will do that."

The final report is due by Aug. 31.

He said the number of officers is meaningless without the "whole context" of events around the riot, which saw about 100 police arrests amid looting, assaults and window-smashing in downtown Vancouver.

The Vancouver Police Department has declined to disclose the number of officers on duty that day, citing a need to protect officers and the public. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has said Police Chief Jim Chu declined to provide him with the figure because of "operational reasons."

Mr. Robertson has said the chief told him the number of officers present was comparable to what was on the streets for the gold-medal hockey game during the 2010 Olympics.

Mr. Furlong suggested it was unfair to draw comparisons between the challenges of the final Stanley Cup game and the Winter Olympics.

"You have to keep in mind, two days before Game 7 we didn't even know there was going to be one," he said. "The Olympics were being planned for 14 years. We had 14 years to plan, execute and test and retest and retest. But obviously this type of event, it comes the way it did."

However, Chief Chu has said his force was planning for policing the games long before it was clear there would be a Game 7 and was talking throughout the process about police planning.

Mr. Furlong and Mr. Keefe said they spent Thursday getting organized and meeting with city and police officials. "We have been told we can have access to every piece of information we require, anything at all, and we have been invited to meet with anyone we want to," Mr. Furlong said.

"We didn't have to even ask. Everybody said, `Whatever you want, we're ready to give it to you.' And that's a very good sign."

Mr. Keefe said the final report won't include a strategy to forever counter riots.

"I don't think you can ever have gatherings of this size and say there will never be another riot any more than [the]Transportation Safety Board can say there will never be another airplane crash. You just work to improve the management of the events so that they are less likely.

"Right now, the discussion is all about, there was a riot. We need to unpack that, understand all the moving parts and then say, `OK, here was a problem or here was weak and can be strengthened.' We need to move beyond, `There was a riot, somebody screwed up.'"

Follow on Twitter: @ianabailey

 

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