On July 13 Jagmeet Singh, a politician running for the federal leadership of the NDP, announced via social media that a key element of his policy platforms will be to create a “federal ban on racial profiling.” On Twitter he also shared his personal stories of being randomly stopped by police and highlighted the damage such stops can have on the psyche of those being profiled. Singh pledged to bring an end to the practice of “carding” and other mechanisms of racial profiling.
But is that realistically possible? Can racial profiling be legally defined and outlawed? While eliminating all forms of racism in our society certainly is no simple task and far beyond the powers of a legislative body, we would be wrong to dismiss his proposal as fanciful or naive. There are concrete ways government can have an immediate impact on preventing racial profiling by police, and there is little standing in the way of their implementation.
1. Parliament can create legislation to ban the act of engaging in random or focused stops of vehicles or pedestrians where no particular crime has been committed. In law this has been a grey area, with police maintaining that the mere suspicion a person has an outstanding warrant or is breaching bail or probation conditions—which may or may not exist—is grounds for a stop and questioning. Some judges have rejected that assertion; but others have agreed, lending police wide power to conduct investigations on the street, with marginalized people often becoming the target. Officers have also claimed interactions during these stops are fully voluntary and amount to nothing more than responsible information gathering, or “proactive policing”, a viewpoint not shared by many on the receiving end of police surveillance.Read more
Last month Toronto Star columnist and advocate Desmond Cole disrupted a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board after it refused to destroy personal information obtained through street interrogations of citizens. The practice of “carding” (also known as “street checks” in British Columbia, and “stop and frisk” in New York City), has become one of the most important issues in policing over the last five years.
Despite calls from marginalized communities and politicians to end the practice; despite judicial decisions questioning its constitutionality; and despite seemingly endless stories about its damaging effects, police refuse to believe that carding could be a bad thing for our country.
“I plan to stand here in protest until you commit today, here and now, to restricting the police having our information going forward. You want to ruin another generation of children’s lives, and I’m not going to allow you to do it.” - Desmond Cole
Last month our office concluded a seven-day trial into the arrest of Solomon Akintoye, arguing that police unlawfully detained and arrested him as he walked down a Vancouver street.
Adamant that he was someone she had spoken to over six months prior who potentially had an outstanding warrant, a VPD officer stopped Mr. Akintoye and asked him to confirm his identity. He did, but she did not believe him. Instead he was told to take his hand out of his pocket by another officer, and when he complained about his detention and the commands he was being given, he was thrown against the hood of a police cruiser and arrested.
In 2011 when Charles Riby-Williams was approached by a police officer in a SkyTrain station while waiting for a friend and asked to identify himself, he complied. When the officer checked his name in the police database and it came up showing no criminal record and no negative police encounters, the officer decided he must be lying about who he was. The officer arrested him for obstruction, and had it not been for the malfunctioning of the officer’s taser, deployed after multiple blows from his baton were rained down on Charles in an effort to subdue him, he might not have survived the encounter.Read more
Day 1 Akintoye trial: Father seeks justice against Vancouver Police after mistaken for suspect and violently arrested
February 20, 2017
What: Today Solomon Akintoye, 33, represented by Pivot Legal Society, is seeking a ruling of wrongful arrest and excessive use of force related to his detention and violent takedown by the Vancouver Police Department in 2011. This is the first significant civil lawsuit to challenge the policies of police in British Columbia relating to investigative detention.Read more
For Immediate Release
February 9, 2017
Vancouver, BC – This afternoon Douglas King, lawyer and police accountability campaigner with Pivot Legal Society, announced plans to pursue civil action on behalf of the Du family against the Vancouver Police in connection to the fatal shooting of a 51-year-old man living with mental illness.
Crown has decided to not charge the Vancouver Police officer who shot and killed Tony Du in 2014 based on a report by the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO); therefore, Pivot Legal will be pursuing justice for the family in the civil realm, seeking a ruling of wrongful death.
“The IIO investigation revealed Tony Du was shot by an officer between 18 – 25 seconds after police arrived,” said King. “The investigation leaves us with a lot of questions on why officers so quickly resorted to deadly force on a man in mental health crisis, who witnesses reported was not presenting as a threat.”Read more
Last month “We The Protestors”, one of the originators of the Black Lives Matter movement, released a platform for reforming the American justice system. The 10-point manifesto, entitled “Campaign Zero”, focuses on key reforms that would help combat systemic racism and decrease the number of police involved deaths to zero. While at first glance the platform may appear specific to the American policing context which has lead to the high profile events in Baton Rouge, Dallas, and Ferguson, the July 24th death of Abdihahman Abdi in Ottawa has forced us to confront a difficult question: How different is Canada?
You can read Campaign Zero's 10-point manifesto here: http://www.joincampaignzero.org/#vision
Campaign Zero can be broken down into three main areas of reform, each of which is applicable here in Canada, although some more directly than others. When we examine each topic in the Canadian context, it’s not hard to see that Canadian policing has more in common with our neighbours to the south than we may have realized.Read more
The Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops is 387 kilometres from Stone Indian Reserve No. 1, located on the south bank of the Chilcotin River. It’s about a 4.5-hour drive between the two, considerably longer if you have to hitchhike or find a way to Williams Lake to take the bus. Two years ago, it was the distance between 18-year-old Jacob Setah and his home community at the time of this death.Read more
Douglas entered law school at UBC focused on a career in international human rights. However, as he spent more time in Vancouver (he is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah), Douglas became deeply aware of the complicated human rights issues in his own community. Douglas worked as an advocate for the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association before moving over to Pivot in 2008. Douglas’ job at Pivot places him at heart of human rights work in Vancouver, working on police and private-security accountability.
Away from his clients and the courtroom, Douglas likes to spend his time outdoors, playing soccer and hiking. His partner Tenny is a community health nurse for Vancouver Coastal Health, and in December of 2013 they welcomed their first child, a daughter, into the world.
Pivot Legal Society is leading a challenge of the City of Vancouver’s bylaws prohibiting street vending.Read more
Every two days someone in British Columbia is injured by a police dog. Police Service Dog (PSD) bites are the leading cause of injury at the hands of municipal police, exceeding by a factor of six injuries incurred by all other forms of non-lethal force, including batons, pepper spray, fists, and Arwen rounds (beanbags). Unlike other police impact weapons such as fists and batons, police dogs are unique in their tendency to inflict permanent injury.Read more