Nearly seven months after the Stanley Cup riot, Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu once again defended his department’s handling of the investigation, despite the fact that the force’s efforts have led to only one conviction.
Chief Chu provided a riot investigation update Wednesday during a speech at the Vancouver Board of Trade, though he released little new information during the address.
Meeting with reporters after the speech, the city’s top police officer said he’s not surprised how the investigation has unfolded since June 15.
“I wasn’t expecting more because we’re familiar with how the courts work,” he said. “We’re there every day. We know cases are adjourned, cases take some time to get set for trial dates. In terms of normal justice, this isn’t actually out of the range of normal scheduling.”
When asked if he believes the investigation has served as a deterrent to future riots, the chief said yes.
“I believe there is deterrence because the media are giving lots of profile to those that are being [brought]before the courts,” he said. “I also think there’s deterrence because people now have been identified through social media. The courts will now be dealing with the cases. The prosecutors are treating these very seriously.”
One of those who allegedly participated in the riot had a brief court appearance Wednesday. During his first appearance last month, Spencer Kirkwood offered an apology and professed his love for the city. Wednesday, when his case was put over for a couple of weeks, Mr. Kirkwood raced from the courthouse and ignored questions from reporters.
He’s charged with one count of participating in a riot and one count of mischief.
The Vancouver Police Department has been much criticized for the pace of its investigation. The force didn’t forward its first major batch of case files to the Crown until Oct. 31, 4 ½ months after the riot left millions of dollars in damage.
In B.C., police forward their files to the Crown for approval. It’s then up to prosecutors to lay charges. Vancouver police have recommended 215 charges against 80 people. The Crown, to date, has approved 77 charges against 30 suspects.
When, or whether, charges will be laid against the other 50 individuals is unclear. When those charged will appear before a judge is just as murky, due to B.C.’s overloaded court system.
The first guilty plea related to the Vancouver police investigation was entered last week. Ryan Dickinson pleaded guilty to one count of participating in a riot and one count of breach of recognizance. Two counts of mischief over $5,000 were dropped in light of the guilty plea.
Mr. Dickinson is scheduled to appear in court for a presentencing hearing next month.
Mischief over $5,000 is punishable by an imprisonment term not exceeding 10 years. Participating in a riot is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years.
Chief Chu said he’d like to see those found guilty serve jail time, though he’ll leave that part up to the judges.
The Vancouver force isn’t the only police department to investigate a Stanley Cup riot case. Karanvir Saran received an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to being in possession of stolen property, though his file was investigated by the RCMP and was not considered part of the Vancouver police caseload.
Chief Chu again criticized the handling of that case, saying it shows what happens when an investigation is rushed to court.
When asked if his department made any mistakes during its investigation, the chief said: “I’ll never say we’re perfect about anything. I think we’re always looking at what’s happening in these cases, learning from investigative steps. We’re always trying to do as best we can.”
When asked to name a specific mistake, he said he’d wait to see what the courts decide before commenting further.