Riot reignites B.C. police debate

After watching police from as far away as Abbotsford dispatched to help restore order in downtown Vancouver during last week's riot, people have found a new reason to support a single police agency for Metro Vancouver.

Members of the RCMP and the Abbotsford police (left) patrol Granville Street early Wednesday evening before the post-Stanley Cup riots in downtown Vancouver.

After watching police from as far away as Abbotsford dispatched to help restore order in downtown Vancouver during last week’s riot, people have found a new reason to support a single police agency for Metro Vancouver.

A post-riot poll of B.C. residents by Angus Reid Public Opinion found three out of five respondents favours amalgamation of the patchwork of city police and RCMP that serves the Lower Mainland. Two thirds of people in Metro Vancouver and the rest of B.C. believe police officers handled the situation properly once the Stanley Cup riot of 2011 broke out. And a similar majority opposed the idea that big street celebrations should be banned.

Four out of five agreed that non-lethal crowd control tools such as rubber bullets or bean bag shotguns should be an option for police.

Four out of five respondents also agreed with Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu’s assertion that the burning and looting were sparked by a small group of people.

The poll found disagreement with one official statement. Seven out of 10 respondents didn’t accept the idea that there was no way to know the crowd assembled in downtown Vancouver would become violent.

While public confidence in police remains high, the same can’t be said for the court system. On average, respondents expect only 32 per cent of those who broke laws to be prosecuted, and half expect that one in five or fewer perpetrators will be punished.

The online survey was conducted by 906 randomly selected B.C. adults, 515 of whom live in Metro Vancouver.

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