Vancouver Police chief confirms threats against Vancouver Mall

Chief James McElvain briefs Vancouver City Council members during Monday night’s virtual meeting

VANCOUVER — Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Chief James McElvain spoke publicly Monday night, confirming that his police force has participated in efforts to protect businesses at Vancouver Mall from potential rioters over a two-day period Sunday and Monday.

McElvain briefed members of the Vancouver City Council during a virtual meeting Monday night. He updated Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle and the council members on activities and protests that have spread into Clark County.

Officers from the Vancouver Police Department assisted in an effort on Sunday and Monday to keep protestors from entering the area surrounding Vancouver Mall. Photo by Mike Schultz
Officers from the Vancouver Police Department assisted in an effort on Sunday and Monday to keep potential rioters from entering the area surrounding Vancouver Mall. Photo by Mike Schultz

A curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. has been issued on recent nights in the city of Portland, which has been the site of daily protests, and some activities that extended beyond a protest, from citizens angry over the May 25 death of George Floyd while being taken into custody by police officers in Minneapolis, Minn.

On Sunday, about 100 protestors gathered in Esther Short Park for a protest that did not turn violent. Much more concerning to McElvain was threats the VPD became aware of that indicated rioters were planning to attempt to vandalize businesses at Vancouver Mall.

“Locally, we’ve had a couple of events that really haven’t become out of control, by any stretch or means, in comparison to someplace like Portland,’’ McElvain said. “What we have had is some social media occurring in the fashion that it is difficult for law enforcement to monitor. Snapchat appears to be the go-to source now for these protestors. 

“We’ve had folks that were attempting to make their way to Vancouver Mall,’’ McElvain said. “Collectively, between ourselves, Public Works, and mall security, we were able to assist in preventing people from making their way to the mall both yesterday and again tonight.’’

McElvain recalled his time in law enforcement in Southern California, which came during the time period of the Los Angeles riots in April and May of 1992. He said what he sees going on around the country currently is even more severe than what he experienced then.

“I can tell you that in 34-plus years of doing this, I’ve never personally witnessed anything to this extent,’’ McElvain said of the protests and riots. “I worked in Southern California during the Rodney King riots. I think this far exceeds what occurred there and what we’ve seen in other parts of the United States in recent years. This is pretty tremendous.

“Talking to other law enforcement professionals throughout the United States, we’ve seen ongoing events that we’ve never seen occur before, not just a one-time event but multiple events, so this is pretty significant,’’ McElvain added. 

The chief said the protestors are very organized and coordinated in their current activities.

“The information we were receiving over the weekend was a bit different than what we’ve experienced in the past where we would typically have an event and you can identify who the organizers are to get some general sense of what they’re doing and where they’re going,’’ McElvain said. “A lot of that has changed recently. It’s highly coordinated, where they are not only resourced but they are supplied additional resources as they move.

“And then, one of the things we’ve recognized is some of these groups splinter off, where essentially, they divide up the police resources as well,’’ the chief said. “Over the last two days, yesterday and now today, we’ve worked closely with the Portland Police Bureau. Commander (Amy) Foster, with her extensive experience, has kept us up to speed here at the city of Vancouver. Ultimately, she has taken a team over to Portland to assist them. As you can imagine, if other resources don’t come to bear to assist other agencies, it can be overwhelming relatively quickly. Last night and tonight, we have had a small team over in Portland, primarily operating as a static unit maintaining security at a facility.’’