Civil rights advocates are concerned that a report by the BC Legislative Commission looking at systemic racism in the police force fails to address social inequalities among vulnerable members of the public.
The BC Civil Liberties Association, PACE Society, Pivot Legal Society and other community advocates held a news conference Friday to respond to The Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, which published its report and recommendations for restoring trust in the police. published Thursday.
One of the eleven proposals was that the broken police departments should be merged on a regional basis and that mayors should no longer be allowed to chair police boards.
It also recommends that the police should no longer be the first and only resource for people in mental health and addiction crisis and that better standards should be created about how police respond to welfare checks.
However, many of the advocates believe that shifting responsibility will not address policing behavior, advocating for stronger measures such as defunding and demilitarizing the police.
PACE Society supports the divestment, dismantling and demilitarization of the police force, a position informed directly by the PACE membership, which “experiences overwhelmingly disrespectful, harmful and useless police behavior,” said Kit, a spokesperson for PACE Society.
“Reforms just don’t work. Expensive technological solutions like CCTV or body-worn cameras distract from the reality that police forces are based on colonialism and racism and classism and misogyny and xenophobia and the list goes on,” they said at the press conference.
Garth Mullins, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, said the recommendations are not enough to help decriminalize drug possession to help users as BC continues to grapple with the opioid crisis that has killed thousands of citizens. .
“A very polite vocabulary has sprung up about how to talk about us, and we even have a minister of addictions crying on our behalf. Yet the deaths (from illegal supply of toxic drugs) continue,” Mullins said.
“And I’m concerned that this report is going to do that to the police. It’s going to teach the police to look better and be nicer, it’s going to create a nicer, better equipped drug use prison…to decriminalize people who have been criminalized.”
BC is guarded by 12 municipal police forces and 130 RCMP detachments.
Pivot Legal Society attorney Anna Cooper said: the recommendations to do not Involving specifically concrete pledges until to set priorities community reactions and community security, and she fears there will be no real change from this report.
“SO there is nothing there Turn right now That gives us That real promise That coming from by this one goods to go until see something That is not only different in name and That shall actually prioritize the people That we work of and grant them better access until a system That protects them,” said Cooper.
Meenakshi Mannoe, a criminalization and policing campaigner at Pivot Legal Society, said structural and systemic problems remain embedded in police structures in BC
She said that in the two years it took to propose the police reforms, lives have been lost due to police brutality.
This includes multiple Indigenous people killed by police, such as Jared Lowndes, who was murdered by Campbell River RCMP in July, she said.
“Even while the work of this commission was underway, there have been high-profile incidents of police handcuffing black and indigenous community members. In addition to reforms, we now call on the government to relieve the police. Even so, the province is still allowing more police surveillance of land defenders in the Wet’suwet’en sovereign territory, and is reversing the police budget decisions of the Vancouver City Council,” she said.
“The government must recognize the crisis presented by the police and make changes to the law that will remove the harm of policing and criminalization.”
—with files from Katie DeRosa
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