Late last week we announced a major development in our campaign to regulate and restrict the use of police dogs in our province. Shirley Bond, the Minister of Justice, has confirmed that the Director of Police Services has struck a working group to analyze the training and deployment of police dogs in B.C, and will be examining the possibility of provincial regulations. When we filed our latest lawsuit against the RCMP on behalf of Bill Evanow, a Maple Ridge man who was accidentally bitten by a police dog while chasing a car thief from his property, the prospect of reforming the training and deployment of police dogs in the province still seemed very far away. Now, with the discovery that the provincial government will be taking action, there is hope that the issue has finally caught the attention of our lawmakers.
Improving police accountability
We first found out about the Province's decision to strike a working group from Jonathan Woodward, the CTV reporter who has worked with us on multiple dog bite stories over the last two years, and broke Bill Evanow's story this January. Following up on the announcement of Bill's lawsuit, Jon spoke with the Minister of Justice's office and asked what action was being taken. The response that they had struck a working group to address the issue was a bit surprising to all of us, and a huge relief. While there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and the outcomes of the working group remain uncertain, the fact that we have finally gotten the government's attention on this topic is a major step forward.
The decision to take action comes a little over a year since the Christopher Evans case brought the issue of police dogs into the national discourse, and almost two years since we launched our first complaint to the VPD on behalf of Scott Philippo, who was bitten by a police dog after cutting the broken lock on his own bicycle. It's been a long and bumpy road, and we've received our fair share of resistance from police departments for questioning these tactics, but the province's intervention is the proof we've been searching for that the government recognizes there is a serious problem here which requires a remedy.
We at Pivot owe a lot to the courageous clients who have come forward and put their stories and character on the line to push for this reform. Our campaign first grabbed attention with the release of shocking statistics on dog bites, but it has been the personal stories of how devastating police dogs can be to those who are bitten which have truly driven the call for reform and forced the province to act.
While it may still be years before we experience meaningful change, and this working group contains no promises, it is hard not to be cautiously optimistic that one day we will look back at the current statistics on dog bites as an anomaly. When the province struck a working group on the use of conducted energy weapons (tasers), the end result was a set of regulations which have seen the use of the weapon drop by 87% in the last five years. As the comparisons between tasers and police dogs continue to grow, our hope is that this working group will produce a strong set of policies which similarly limit the use of police dogs in our province. Ultimately we hope those regulations, and the litigation which has preceded them, will be successful in preventing further cases like Bill Evanow's from happening in the future.
Read the full article published in the weekend edition of the Vancouver Sun here.