On the defensive over planning and response to last week’s Stanley Cup riot, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu has launched an attack on one of his most outspoken critics.
In an internal e-mail to VPD staff – provided to the media on Tuesday – Mr. Chu took aim at the person widely identified by the media in recent days as an investigator of the 1994 Stanley Cup riot for the B.C. Police Commission.
In several interviews and news stories, Bob Whitelaw was critical of the VPD’s riot readiness. He also said the department ignored several recommendations made in the ’94 report that looked into errors made by police in responding to the Stanley Cup riot that year.
The provincial government has launched an independent review to determine whether the recommendations were followed and how well the police and the city planned for crowd control when more than 100,000 people were expected to pour into the downtown core to watch the game on massive, open-air screens.
The VPD has refused to say how many officers were deployed on the night of Game 7, saying it does not normally disclose the details of its operational plans.
Chief Chu said that Mr. Whitelaw has made claims that he was an investigator for the B.C. Police Commission and that he’d written the 1994 riot report. Mr. Whitelaw described himself as a riot investigator and provided a copy of his business card at the time, which identifies him as a “study team member” of the Vancouver riot investigation for the commission.
“The media is referring to this report as ‘the Whitelaw Report,’ ” Chief Chu wrote to his staff. “Without exception they have reported his disparaging attacks against the integrity of the VPD without checking the facts. It is time to set the record straight.”
Mr. Whitelaw, reached at his Ottawa office Tuesday, said he was shocked by the tone of Chief Chu’s remarks.
He took issue with Chief Chu’s suggestion that he had little to do with the 1994 report, and provided a copy of a letter dated Nov. 8, 1994 signed by the chair at the time of the police commission, David Edgar, thanking Mr. Whitelaw’s employer for providing his services on secondment.
“An essential part of the study concerned the collection and understanding of the facts. What happened, when and who was involved and so forth. Bob worked well with the other person involved in that aspect,” Mr. Edgar’s letter stated. “As a result of the work, the final report was able to reflect accurately the essential facts and draw from them the lessons that the report sets out. Bob also oversaw the administrative side of the study and was much involved in the public outreach component.”
Mr. Edgar, contacted Tuesday, accused Mr. Whitelaw of inflating his role in the final report. Mr. Whitelaw was merely the author of a draft report that never saw the light of day, he said. But in correspondence at the time, he described Mr. Whitelaw as a member of the investigative team. Presented with copies of his letters setting out Mr. Whitelaw’s role, Mr. Edgar said he didn’t recall writing them but confirmed his signature.
“He was purely a writer, a wordsmith,” he maintained. “He was involved in the work of a task force as a writer and when it came to the writing, it turned out to be unacceptable. So the writing was taken away from him and given to our senior staff to complete the writing. Nowhere in the report is Whitelaw’s work reflected. It was completely rewritten.”
Retired RCMP Chief Superintendent Mike O’Rielly, who worked on the report with Mr. Whitelaw, said Tuesday that he would defer to Mr. Edgar on whether Mr. Whitelaw was overstating his role.
Mr. O’Rielly said he worked well with Mr. Whitelaw as a team on a first draft of the document, which was forwarded to a lawyer with the commission, who wrote a second draft. The understanding was always that the report would go to subsequent drafts, he said.
“He was typing and I was feeding him information based on the format they had. He came in as a consultant. [David Edgar] accepted him as the person who would do the report to the standards of the commission,” Mr. O’Rielly said from his home in Victoria.
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