Improving police accountability

The police occupy a uniquely powerful role in our society. For people who are marginalized as a result of things like poverty, disability, or ethnicity, that power can be experienced as oppressive. Far too often, police are their first point of contact when someone is in the midst of a crisis. That’s why it’s critical that law enforcement be responsive to the needs of diverse communities. Pivot’s Police Accountability campaign works with these communities to establish a system of transparent and accountable policing that ends the criminalization of poverty and holds law enforcement responsible for discrimination or disproportionate use of force.

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Past Victories

Helping reform police policy at Tony Du coroner’s inquest

In February 2018, Pivot Legal Society and lawyer Frances Mahon stood alongside and supported the family of Tony Du, a man living with mental illness shot and killed by Vancouver Police officer Andrew Peters, during a coroner’s inquest into his death. Mahon represented the family of Du and urged the jury to make a number of recommendations that would improve police response to mental health crises, protect public safety, and ensure independent, civilian-led investigation of police-related injuries or deaths.

After a week of painful testimony, a five-person jury adopted many of our key policy objectives and recommendations, including a containment strategy, that, were it in place back in 2014, may have prevented the fatal shooting. This was an important step forward in making the Vancouver Police Department more accountable and protecting public safety.

Independent police investigations

Pivot, along with many other organizations, victims of police misconduct, and families of people killed by police, fought for years for the creation of an independent police investigations body. In May of 2011, the provincial government amended the Police Act to create the Independent Investigation Office to investigate incidents where police cause death or serious harm. The Independent Investigations Office is led by and staffed with civilians who have never been police officers.

Regulation of police dogs

After Moving Toward Minimum Force, Pivot’s report on the serious injuries caused by the deployment of police service dogs in British Columbia was released in 2014, the provincial government issued Canada’s first-ever guidelines for the use of police dogs. The guidelines call for changes to deployment practices, as well as uniform training practices and record keeping for police dog use.

Advocating for sobering centres

Former B.C. Supreme Court justice William Davies issued a series of recommendations in 2009 following the death of Frank Paul, an Aboriginal man who died from hypothermia after police left him severely intoxicated in an East Vancouver alley. One of his main recommendations was the establishment of a stand-alone, civilian-operated sobering centre in Vancouver, where intoxicated individuals can spend the night. Vancouver Coastal Health has committed to creating a centre, so when police are first responders, they will have the option of taking people to a health service rather than a jail.