Calling it “outdated” and out of step with the provincial government’s approach to and work with police services, BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said he plans to look at how BC’s Police Act “can be modernized to reflect today’s challenges and opportunities for delivering police services with a specific focus on systemic racism.”
Noting that the act itself is 45 years old, Farnworth said police officers “require a modern policing structure that provides greater clarity for their roles.”
Expectations on frontline police responders, he added, “have grown and our policing and public safety model needs to reflect communities’ current and future needs.”
To that end, Farnworth said, “our government passed legislation last year to strengthen the Independent Investigation Office’s capacity and improve the quality and timeliness of its investigations.”
He noted that the province has also introduced “new binding standards on police stops – or ‘street checks’ – to promote unbiased policing.”
Under these new standards, Farnworth said police aren’t permitted to make arbitrary stops or ones based on race.
“Everyone deserves to be treated fairly by the police, and our government acknowledges that for many Black, Indigenous and other people of colour, that hasn’t always been the case,” he said. “Ensuring the police are held accountable to the highest standards for fair and unbiased conduct is crucial to maintaining public trust.”
Farnworth said that earlier this week, he met with BC Premier John Horgan, who asked him “to strike an all-party committee to engage with communities and experts on how the 45-year-old act can be modernized.”
When the legislature resumes later this month, Farnworth said he “will be tabling a motion to strike this committee and I will look forward to receiving its recommendations.”
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Farnworth’s comments come after Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart – who is also the chair of the Vancouver Police Board – called on the provincial government to conduct a “comprehensive review” of all police in British Columbia.
During a press conference on Thursday, Stewart said the “global outcry against police violence we’ve recently witnessed is powerful and must be addressed in all cities, including Vancouver.”
The mayor said that in reality, City Council has minimal control of the VPD outside of approving its annual police budget.
He added that BC’s Police Act requires Council to “more or less rubber stamp police budgets” but that they “can do little to affect policing in the city.”
Stewart also argued that the VPD Board can only “oversee expenditures and local policing policies at monthly meetings.”
In the end, however, “if we are to make a major structural change to policing, it is the Province that must act.”