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Head of independent review into Vancouver riots to be named this week

The head of an independent review into the Stanley Cup riot is expected to be named this week.

"It's close, very close," Premier Christy Clark said Sunday, affirming that she has been working on the high-profile matter during her recent travels to Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he anticipates the appointment to be made before the end of the week.

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The provincially funded scrutiny of perhaps the worst riot in the history of a city that has had many previous spontaneous outbreaks of street violence and vandalism is to issue its findings by the end of August.

At the same time, political sniping and controversy continue to swirl nearly two weeks after the Vancouver Canucks' seventh-game loss in the Stanley Cup final spurred unruly mobs to rampage through downtown streets in a wave of burning, looting and assaults.

One question certain to be looked at by the review is Police Chief Jim Chu's decision not to impose a mandatory callout of all Vancouver police officers that night, despite ominous signs that crowds would differ significantly in numbers and mood from previous playoff games.

A confidential police operational plan for Game 7, obtained by radio station CKNW, appears to reveal a struggle by the VPD's Operational Planning Unit (OPU) to have more officers in the street as crowds increased dramatically during the Stanley Cup final.

In the plan, the OPU said it "has exhausted" voluntary lists of members available for callout, then resorted to "cold calling" officers who had not previously made themselves available for duty.

"This has had little success," said the plan report, prepared by Sergeant Mike Purdy of the VPD's Emergency and Operational Planning Section.

"They have now exhausted the lists of members available for callout and, short of moving to a mandatory callout for everyone in the VPD, the VPD has had to ask other police agencies for assistance."

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A mandatory callout was not implemented, with Port Moody, West Vancouver and New Westminster police departments eventually supplying four members each to the VPD's Game 7 contingent.

Chief Chu has consistently refused to disclose how many police officers were on duty as Game 7 began, with huge numbers of fans, many of them drunk, massing downtown.

Constable Jana McGuinness of the VPD declined to comment on the mandatory callout issue, saying police will be participating in the province's formal review. "All aspects of the police response will be examined as part of that review process," she said in an e-mailed statement.

A veteran, former ranking police officer, who had been on duty during the 1994 Stanley Cup riot, said he was astonished there was no mandatory callout of VPD members.

"There were very visible signs before the game started that there would be trouble," said the ex-officer, who declined to be named. "Every person who was not assigned to work should have been put back on duty."

He said the VPD had imposed mandatory callouts at the 1997 APEC gathering, and at several previous Festival of Lights fireworks celebrations. "I think they were too complacent this time."

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Meanwhile, NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton, who is running against Mr. Robertson for the mayoralty in this fall's election, urged the city to launch its own internal review of why the riot happened, complete with public consultation.

She said this would be separate from the province's independent review.

"Every day, we seem to learn more about what we didn't know. This was a city event, not somebody else's event," Ms. Anton said.

"I don't want to see these kinds of events cancelled, but we have to make sure we hold them safely, and the public should be offered the opportunity to record their views on the matter."

Mr. Robertson laughed off his rival's suggestion, pointing out that an internal review is already being conducted by city staff, and ways of involving the public are being devised.

"[Ms. Anton] is a little late in the game here," he said, taking time out to talk during Greek Day street festivities Sunday. "She must have missed it [what the city is doing to review the riot]."

To Ms. Anton's charge that the move to set up live-site viewing zones for the playoffs should have come to council for a formal decision, Mr. Robertson said it was important for the city to be "pro-active," since huge crowds were coming downtown, regardless.

"I think we had great success with those fan zones until Game 7, which was a completely different crowd, and that was unfortunate."

The mayor said he expects the riot will be used as an election issue by his opponents.

"It will certainly be in the mix and certainly there have been a lot of cheap-shot politics over the last week and a half, but I'm not worried about it."

Ms. Anton said she was as surprised as anyone that the mayor, as head of the police board, has been unable to find out from Chief Chu how many officers were deployed on riot night.

"I do think the chair of the police board should ask for and get that kind of information."

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