Labels VPD statistics "skewed", and calls for implementation of missing women recommendations
For Immediate Release
December 5, 2013
Vancouver - The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has rejected a report from the Vancouver Police Department addressing bylaw enforcement in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, upholding an appeal from Pivot Legal Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). The decision from the OPCC directs the VPD to release 10 years worth of enforcement data to the public, and recommends the Vancouver Police Board adopt a policy which incorporates the recommendation made by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry on bylaw enforcement.
Pivot and VANDU had filed a Service and Policy Complaint in March of 2013, alleging discriminatory policing practices by the Vancouver Police Department. Freedom of Information requests made by the organizations revealed that in the last few years 95% of all Street Vending tickets, and 76% of all jaywalking tickets were handed out in the Downtown Eastside, while neighbourhoods like Dunbar and Kerrisdale experienced little to no enforcement.
In a letter from Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe, dated November 21, 2013 the OPCC has rejected the VPD's report responding to the complaint, criticizing its analysis of data, and recommending that the board adopt a policy which incorporates the recommendations from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
"This is a very important message from the OPCC to the Vancouver Police Board" said Douglas King, staff lawyer for Pivot Legal Society. "We spent $10 million on the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry and the Commissioner's recommendations cannot be ignored."
At the conclusion of the hearing into missing and murdered women, Commissioner Wally Oppal made a series of recommendations to government. The recommendation relating to bylaw enforcement, reads as follows:
"I recommend that the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department take proactive measures to reduce the number of court warrants issued for minor offences by:
- Reducing the number of tickets issued and charges laid for minor offences;
- Developing guidelines to facilitate greater and more consistent use of police discretion not to lay charges; and
- Increasing the ways in which failures to appear can be quashed early in the judicial process"
Pivot and VANDU are calling on the Vancouver Police Board to respect the OPCC's decision, and create a policy encapsulating the MWCI recommendation. They are also calling on Mayor Robertson to address the issue, and renew Vision Vancouver's earlier commitment to make sure bylaw enforcement is carried out equally between neighbourhoods.