Vancouver Riot Reports: Not So Nice, After All

Vancouver Riots | BCBusiness

I’ve been thinking about the Vancouver riot. Our problem is that Vancouver isn’t as nice a city as we think it is. We’re Hockey Riot Town, and it’s time to start thinking like it.

The most important realization to come out of the post-mortems of the Vancouver hockey riot is that we’re now a city and no longer a nice little town by the sea.

Last night, I watched an old movie in which a character was named Nicely Nicely, largely because he was so, well, nice. Whenever anyone asked him how he was doing, he said, “Nicely, Nicely, thank you.”

I think it speaks to one of the root problems with Vancouver’s new, unwanted image as Hockey Riot Town. We think everyone is nice and we’re just doing nicely, nicely, thank you.

Now that the official reports about the riot are coming in and it appears that it was nobody’s fault – or everybody’s, or just the fault of a few (I’m not quite sure) – maybe we should cut through the rhetoric, ass-covering, and finger-pointing and just get down to basics.

Bellowing “let’s party,” we invited all and sundry to rock on in a few small downtown areas without any controls. Not surprisingly, 150,000 people showed up and about one per cent of them decided that their form of celebration was to get completely plastered, then fight, then burn and loot.

What did we expect?

We neglected to account for the possibility that among those partying throngs of supposed hockey fans would be a faction that needed to be weeded out or controlled.

Vancouver is a nice town full of nice people, we presumed. Why would anyone besmirch our fair city and ruin a perfectly good party put on by all those nice people who live in nice (and quiet) neighborhoods like Kitsilano?

Even though it was obvious that most of these partygoers would be coming into town from the suburbs, probably on transit, we didn’t arrange for any security to guard against those among the crowd who decided they were going to take out whatever frustrations they suffered from on the centre of our shining happy city by the sea.

I don’t know why, and the reports don’t tell me. But I have my suspicions.

The first, of course, is financial. How do you mobilize an entire Vancouver Police Department to cover a party of that size? And how do you pay for it? So you hope that everybody is, well, nice.

Also, frantically calling in reinforcements, like off-duty officers and suburban police forces doesn’t work. It’s almost impossible for them to get to the centre of the action in time.

There is obviously a big disconnect among all the police forces operating in the Vancouver region. The RCMP has its territory, and so do smaller forces. They apparently don’t coordinate much in terms of training, logistics, and regional issues.

It makes me think that maybe it’s time to revisit the concept of a regional police force. But I doubt that will fly because of regional jealousies and rivalries.

So, how about instead we realize that the Vancouver region is indeed one big city: in the absence of one big police force, we at least coordinate them on a regular basis, train them in all the nuances of policing an urban region of roughly two million people, and, especially, understand that not all those two million are happy and nice.

We’re a big city now. Nicely Nicely doesn’t always do it.