FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2022
Following the release of the report and recommendations of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, advocates respond to the current state of policing in BC.
Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nations, Vancouver BC – The final report of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act (SCORPA) comes after nearly two years of examinations into the role of police in BC. The Special Committee was tasked with making recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on policing reforms, including the role of police in “complex social issues,” as well as examining the scope of systemic racism within BC's police agencies. Initially called in July 2020, the first Committee was dissolved following BC’s 2020 provincial election. The Committee was appointed once again in April 2021.
SCORPA was tasked with understanding the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions, and harm reduction. Community advocates have reviewed the report and its 11 recommendations, and have responded to the proposals for transforming policing and community safety in BC.
Martin A. Andresen PhD, Professor, SFU School of Criminology:
“Crime has been falling in and around BC for 25 years, like so many countries in the world. Yes, some (violent) crime has increased recently. However, we need to be cautious with these changes as they represent a small fraction of police activity. We should not make changes/increases to police budgets based on these short-run changes. Rather, such funds should be allocated to social services that needed more funding before the pandemic.”
We should not make changes/increases to police budgets based on these short-run changes. Rather, such funds should be allocated to social services that needed more funding before the pandemic.
Mark Desjarlais, frontline harm reduction worker and OPCC Group Complainant:
“I see what police do in the DTES community. I watch them escorting street cleaners throwing out everyone’s belongings during daily Street Sweeps. I watch them interfere in harm reduction; I had them physically stop me from assisting with an overdose. I have seen cops freak out over an ACAB hat, claiming I was being a threat. I see the “good cops” get silenced, they don’t speak out against all the bad ones. In our ongoing police complaint, we are over two years into the formal process, and it feels like it’s just getting dragged out to fob us off. The system does not protect us and a few small changes won’t fix it.”
The system does not protect us and a few small changes won’t fix it.
Meghan McDermott, Policy Director at the BC Civil Liberties Association:
“Approaches towards community safety need a massive overhaul and must be meaningingfully reconciled with the rights of Indigenous peoples. We call upon the government to act boldly and not tinker with the status quo. Now is the time to limit the scale and scope of policing power, and policing resources must be re-directed to non-policing community-based services and upstream safety solutions.”
Approaches towards community safety need a massive overhaul and must be meaningingfully reconciled with the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Garth Mullins, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, Drug User Liberation Front, Crackdown Podcast:
“We don’t want to see more police creep into healthcare. We don’t want some progressive-sounding legislation that is actually just another jail for drug users who can’t access safe supply, or people with mental health issues who can’t access supports. Because the government refuses to cover mental health and won’t really offer safe supply. But they do insist on expanding police budgets. Cops escalate things. Cops make bad situations into deadly ones. Real Police Act reform means legislation that would dismantle the drug war.”
Cops escalate things. Cops make bad situations into deadly ones. Real Police Act reform means legislation that would dismantle the drug war.
Kit Rothschild, Community co-Executive Director at PACE Society:
“Calls to reform police do nothing to support sex workers, and actually funnel more money towards police, instead of addressing the social inequalities that cause many to find themselves in sex work. Surveillance, combined with criminalization, only harms sex workers' rights to safety, and access to justice. PACE Society supports divestment, defunding, and demilitarization of police. Our position is directly informed by PACE membership, who overwhelmingly experience disrespectful, harmful, and unhelpful police conduct. 70% of our members have shared that they do not feel safer if there is a police presence while they are working. Reforms simply do not work; costly technological solutions such as CCTV and body-worn cameras distract from the reality that policing is grounded in colonialism, racism, classism, and misogyny.”
70% of our members have shared that they do not feel safer if there is a police presence while they are working. Reforms simply do not work...
We also recognize that throughout the duration of this Special Committee, there have continued to be incidents of police violence, including incidents of death and serious harm. In BC, and across Canada, police violence is borne out on racialized people, specifically Indigenous people. Victims and survivors of police violence must not be forgotten in the calls for reform.
To arrange an interview please contact Asha Nygra
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Background Information and Documents
Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act
- Report of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act - Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia (April 28, 2022)
- Terms of Reference (April 13, 2021)
Pivot Legal Society
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.