At least two Vancouver Police officers appeared to use "unnecessary and excessive" force during the Guns N' Roses riot last fall, the police complaint commissioner said Friday.
Commissioner Dirk Ryneveld made the statement in a written notice for a public hearing that will examine the events of last Nov. 7, when fans of the legendary 1980s rock band erupted in anger when lead singer Axl Rose unexpectedly cancelled the show at GM Place.
Police moved in to disperse the rioting crowd and allegedly injured at least two men in the process.
Robert Parent and Detlef Schroeder lodged complaints under the B.C. Police Act that they were injured when officers used unnecessary and excessive force. Video footage of that night shows Schroeder being beaten by police armed with batons as he was leaving the stadium with his daughter. Further footage shows an officer using his baton to knock out two of Parent's teeth. "In my view, the video footage clearly depicts at least two separate incidents in which two officers appear to be using unnecessary and excessive force against Messrs. Parent and Schroeder," Ryneveld's statement reads.
When Ryneveld announced the public hearing Oct. 3, his opinion of the officers' use of force was somewhat different.
In his initial statement, Ryneveld said the actions of the police were "entirely appropriate given the circumstances," and that the hearing was warranted because of the seriousness of the complaints and the harm suffered by the complainants. (In addition to the two teeth Parent lost the night of the riot, he later had to have six teeth removed as a result of the incident.)
In Friday's statement, Ryneveld said neither Parent nor Schroeder appeared to be involved in acts of "hooliganism" on the night of Nov. 7, neither did they appear to be resisting or disobeying police.
"Indeed, both complainants appeared to be attempting to comply with police commands to leave the area when they received blows resulting in their injuries," said Friday's statement.
But the commissioner did not accuse all the officers who attended of using excessive force, and emphasized that "the actions of most of the police officers involved in the dangerous situation at GM Place that evening were appropriate."
Vancouver Police spokeswoman, Constable Sarah Bloor, said Ryneveld's conclusions are not surprising, and added that the department is maintaining its view that the officers acted appropriately during the riot. The police department conducted its own review of the riot and submitted a report to Crown counsel for review.
Bloor emphasized Friday that the Crown never recommended any charges against the officers after it had reviewed the report.
"At this point, we are satisfied with the investigation and the fact that Crown counsel did not have any formal charges against the officers involved," Bloor said.
"We are confident -- based on the use-of-force expert that we had as well as the crowd-control expert -- that the officers acted in an appropriate manner based on the circumstances that faced them."
The two officers investigated internally by the police department are still on active duty and will likely remain there unless the public hearing produces disciplinary recommendations, Bloor said.
Although the police department does not agree with Ryneveld's findings, Bloor said the police will "fully cooperate" with the public hearing process.
At the end of his statement, Ryneveld said he called the public hearing because it is "necessary to preserve or restore public confidence both in the complaint process and in the police."
Ryneveld was not available for comment.
No date has been set for the public hearing and Ryneveld did not identify the officers accused of excessive force.
The Vancouver Police department has been the subject of several lawsuits this year alleging excessive force. Three were filed by three men who allege they were beaten in Stanley Park by six officers in the early morning of Jan. 14. An internal disciplinary hearing will be held Oct. 27 and 28 and the six accused officers could face penalties ranging from a reprimand to outright dismissal.
The constables, all of whom have less than five years of service, will begin a preliminary hearing June 21 and are all charged with three counts of assault, assault with a weapon and obstruction of justice.Another suit has been filed by Shannon Pritchard, who says she was picked up with the three men on Granville Mall, but was released before they were taken to Stanley Park. Two other men filed two lawsuits Wednesday, alleging five officers assaulted them the morning of Sept. 2, 2002, near the Van East cinema in the 2900-block of Commercial Drive.