London police address homecoming concerns
London police are standing by their decision to hand a hefty ticket to the cheerleading team during Western University’s homecoming over the weekend.
Deputy Chief Brett Shea says "At the end of the day, was the officer legally justified in issuing the ticket? The answer is yes."
Police held a news conference at 1 p.m. Monday to show a portion of video of the huge crowds on the streets and the dynamic faced by officers.
Officials say the most significant challenge was related to a huge gathering in the Broughdale Avenue area west of Richmond Street that began before 10 a.m.
Police say they were faced with crowds of up to 3,000 students and behaviour like public drinking that had them concerned.
The crowd also created significant safety risks for emergency service vehicles. Officers say they used enforcement and crowd control strategies to move the large crowd peacefully out of the area, but it took over two hours to accomplish.
Police issued 270 tickets to Western University students, including 212 for liquor violations. One of the tickets was the $140 fine to members of Western’s cheerleading team for a 'nuisance' performance.
The team was slightly off the Western campus when the incident happened.
Coach David Lee Tracey told CTV News on Sunday that a portion of the crew was on Broughdale Avenue when they stopped in an empty parking spot on a dead end portion of the street to lead a cheer.
"There's no way this was a planned performance to disrupt traffic and cause a riot in the streets of London. It was simply the cheerleading team walking to the football game and I think a little discretion would have gone a long way on the part of the enforcers there."
He belives if officers had simply asked the team to clear the streets and move along they would have complied and it would have been a non-issue.
But London police turned the tables on the cheer squad questioning whether it was a good idea to be doing a cheer when there were so many people around.
Shea says "Was this a good environment for them to be in? For some reason the focus all seems to be coming back towards police because of the issuance of the ticket, but was it also perhaps a wise location for the cheerleaders to be."
Keith Marnoch, communications director for Western University, says three members of the cheer team were heading to the homecoming football game and they got caught up in the moment.
"And it was probably instinctive for them to get into the mode and be exuberant with the crowd that was there. By the same token the police were there and trying to manage a situation. You know, they were doing what they needed to do."
London Councillor Judy Bryant says what's being lost is that this was a successful and safe event, "Overall it's been a very successful weekend. This particular incident has caused a media flurry that seems to be going around the world and I think it's out of proportion."
Police say they're hoping to speak with university officials and representatives of the cheer team to try to clear the air.