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The 2011 Stanley Cup Riot: police perspectives and lessons learned

Garth Davies (Department of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada)
Stephanie E Dawson (Department of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 16 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to examine crowd violence in relation to the 2011 Stanley Cup Riot from the perspective of those police officers who were involved in the event, and identify any lessons that can be learned from this incident.


A total of 460 Vancouver police officers participated in this study. Police perceptions of the riot were elicited via mailed questionnaires, which focused on key themes related to crowd disorder and police response, including preparations, deployment, training, safety, causes, and future prevention. Questionnaire responses were analyzed using descriptive approaches and one-sample t-tests.


The study findings revealed that, in general, police felt ill-prepared prior to the riot, and ill- and unsafe during the riot. Their responses also suggested that their negative perceptions of the riot were the result of a few prominent factors, namely inadequate deployment, a lack of operational planning, and the presence of a large and belligerent crowd.

Research limitations/implications

This study represents an important first step in understanding the issues associated with preventing and containing disorderly crowds from the perspective of police officers. Although valuable, this study does have a few limitations, including post hoc data collection.

Practical implications

This study provides important insights into the causes of riots and the particular difficulties officers face during the course of a riot. These insights may be used by departments to assist with planning and preparations related to preventing riots and effectively limiting crowd disorder.


This is the first study to examine police perceptions in a Canadian context. It utilizes a comparatively large sample, and is among the very few studies that includes the views of officers who have actually experienced a riot.



This research was supported by SSHRC Small Grant No. 2012-631004-15732. The authors wish to expresses their sincere appreciation to the Vancouver Police Union.


Davies, G. and Dawson, S.E. (2015), "The 2011 Stanley Cup Riot: police perspectives and lessons learned", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 132-152.



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