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The Globe and Mail

Police department pleased with its operation at Games

Police officers patrol Granville Street during the Winter Olympic celebrations in Vancouver, BC, February 21, 2010.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The Vancouver Police Department says it's satisfied with how officers handled the massive Olympic crowds who poured into downtown every night during the Winter Games.

Deputy Police Chief Doug LePard cited the department's past experience with handling demonstrations in Vancouver, as well as reinforcements from the Mounties and surrounding police departments for helping to keep the crowds - which were sometimes drunk and rowdy - from turning violent.

And even though police were forced to close the busy Granville Street bridge Sunday night and suspend downtown bus service as crowds came to the city for the men's hockey final, Deputy Police Chief LePard said Sunday was easy compared with the first night of the Games, when 1,500 protesters confronted police outside BC Place.

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"I can tell you now that really was our most tense moment," he told reporters yesterday. "The criminal element within that protest group threw everything at us they could get their hands on. When they ran out of things to throw at us, they spit on us."

Police contained the crowd but did not engage in violent confrontations.

After that, the biggest threats were rowdy drunks and the open consumption of alcohol. Over the 17 days of the Games, police ordered thousands of people to pour out their booze.

"There was an incredible amount of liquor that was not drunk, either because it wasn't purchased or because we poured it out," Deputy Chief LePard said.

The second Friday of the Games, Feb. 19, drew large crowds and prompted police to order early closings of downtown liquor stores, the officer said. Vancouver police then called for reinforcements from the Mounties and police departments in the Lower Mainland. On any given night, they had an extra 400 officers on downtown streets, in addition to regular staff.

On Sunday night, when the revelry reached its peak after the Canadian men's gold-medal hockey win, police arrested about 100 people for public intoxication.

There were also a handful of arrests for breach of the peace and for disorderly and violent behaviour, and two officers were injured when they attempted to break up a fight.

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"The biggest threat that we had was just the incredible numbers of people we had compressed into a fairly small area downtown," Deputy Chief LePard said. "No one I think could have predicted that we would see 130,000 or more people in a few blocks around Robson and Granville."

He said the surveillance cameras installed downtown were helpful to police in controlling the crowds, but it's up to the city to decide whether those security measures will stay.

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