The mayor of Vancouver is calling on the provincial government to conduct a “comprehensive review” of all police in British Columbia.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart made the announcement Thursday morning, acknowledging the “global outcry” against police brutality and violence.
“The global outcry against police violence we’ve recently witnessed is powerful and must be addressed in all cities, including Vancouver,” he said. “While some important steps have been taken in Vancouver, the systemic changes called for around the globe require bolder action, including by the BC provincial government.”
The review would include all bodies of policing in BC, including the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), the RCMP, and other municipal police forces.
The mayor said that in reality, City Council has minimal control of the VPD outside of approving its annual police budget.
He pointed out 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, in which he acts as chair and board spokesperson, can only “oversee expenditures and local policing policies at monthly meetings.”
He continued, “In the end, though, if we are to make a major structural change to policing, it is the Province that must act.”
The provincial government plays a large part in how police in BC operate, including determining how much funding municipalities provide to local departments, determining training, creating oversight agencies and watchdogs, setting provincial standards, and approving the Police Act.
Stewart added that the Province sets the use of force and restraint, among other policies, and appoints board members.
“While many US cities, including Minneapolis, can massively restructure their police, neither organizations which I chair can legally do this – even if they wanted to,” he said.
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The provincial review would include an investigation into systemic racism and disproportional violence experienced by Black and Indigenous peoples.
It would also look into how police approach those experiencing mental illness, low income, and homelessness as well as drug users, sex workers, women, queer, trans, and gender-diverse people.
In addition to reviewing training with police services and oversight bodies, Stewart is also calling for an “efficacy and funding model” if all police in BC were to wear body cameras.
“It isn’t very often that we’re given a chance to reimagine something as fundamental and important as how our society protects its people,” he added. “Through terrible tragedy, but also incredible bravery and energy on behalf of activists and community members, we have that chance now.”
The mayor says that he’ll submit a request in writing to BC Premier John Horgan and ask for an urgent response. The letter will also be sent to the leaders of BC’s Liberal and Green parties, calling for a public response.
As it stands, the City of Vancouver provides the majority of the VPD’s funding, which represents 20% of the City’s $1.6 billion operating budget.