Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu says charges against Stanley Cup rioters can’t be rushed into court without risk of weakening the ensuing prosecutions.
He spoke out Wednesday, defending the more than two-month wait so far for charges to be laid in the June 15 crime spree that saw mobs torch cars and loot dozens of stores downtown.
“If we rush cases to court, we risk losing them by being ineffective and inefficient,” Chu told reporters. “If you are in favour of speed, you are in favour of more acquittals and lighter sentences.”
The chief sought to calm public demands for faster action – especially after hundreds of rioters in Britain were quickly rounded up and charged within days of much more severe civil unrest.
“It will take months before all the evidence is processed and we are ready to make arrests,” he said, adding he shares the public’s frustration.
“Canada is not Britain. Our laws are different, our courts are different and our riots are different.”
Unlike the U.K., where police lay charges directly, police in B.C. forward recommendations to Crown counsel, who approve charges.
The video evidence of the rioters after the Canucks’ Game 7 loss is also different.
Unlike the mix of camera phone images captured by onlookers and store surveillance video recorded in Vancouver, British investigators are armed with government-run surveillance camera recordings that are less subject to dispute over possible doctoring.
Police have identified 259 separate crimes so far, Chu said, each incident involving as many as 300 individuals.
A total of 268 suspects have been identified so far, he added.
A total of 41 people have turned themselves in so far.
But while charges might seem simple in at least those cases, Chu said care is still required.
He said some people confessed to a minor infraction at the riot, hoping to avoid prosecution on more serious charges – which detailed examination of videos show are warranted.
“Some people have been brought in by their parents when there is actually no evidence that we can identify that they committed a criminal act.”
The VPD is collaborating with an Indiana-based crime lab and an international association of investigators with expertise in video analysis to help comb through the 1,600 hours of riot footage in weeks rather than the up to two years Chu said might be needed if handled solely by local police.
Chu also said a new website will soon be launched to keep the public apprised of the investigation’s progress, a step he called highly unusual.
That will display the photos of 150 new riot suspects on whom police are seeking information.
“No one is more frustrated than I am that every last one of them is not before the courts or in prison as we speak.”
PHOTOS: A man photographed at the June 15 Stanley Cup riot (top). Above: Investigators examine video of participants in the riot.