Criminalization & Policing Campaign

Pivot seeks a shift from law enforcement towards anti-stigma work, peer leadership, and inclusion.

Currently, the police occupy a uniquely powerful role in our society – whether they are the first point of contact in a crisis or the primary responders to issues driven by broader inequalities.

Policing, which we interpret to include broad systems of criminalization – including police and prisons, as well as security guards and bylaw enforcement - are key drivers of exclusion in the communities Pivot works alongside. We recognize that policing has become synonymous with racism & violence – particularly for Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people experiencing mental distress.

Pivot works alongside people who are marginalized as a result of things like poverty, disability, social condition, or race. We use our tools to address the criminalization of poverty and hold law enforcement responsible for discrimination or use of force. Our tools include community-based advocacy, public legal education, media and strategic litigation. Accountability alone will not resolve the oppression people face when interacting with the police, but it’s an important tool to keep communities safer.

Past Victories

Resource on police violence in Canada

In 2019, Pivot published the blog 17 years of police violence in Canada. Since its publication, this resource has been used 35,000 times. This blog utilized data from CBC’s 2018 Deadly Force series. Using interactive tools and data analysis, we highlight concerning trends based on 460 fatal interactions with police across Canada, between 2000 and 2017. Notably, there is a clear pattern of over-representation of Black and Indigenous folks in instances of fatal police violence, exposing that members of these communities face far greater risk when interacting with police, even in seemingly “mild” encounters, like street stops.

You can find up-to-date information on CBC’s Deadly Force database, including the role of race and mental health distress in police-involved fatalities.

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

Police Service Dog (PSD) bites are the leading cause of injury at the hands of municipal police in BC. After receiving complaints from a number of people who have been bitten, we began working toward significant reforms. In 2017, we published Moving To Minimum Force: Police Dogs and Public Safety in British Columbia, a research report based on in-depth case studies from Pivot ‘s client base, as well as case law and statistical data provided by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) and the RCMP.

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.