August 5, 2022
RE: VPD and IIO actions in the Downtown Eastside - Saturday July 30, 2022
We write to demand accountability for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) actions on Saturday July 30. These actions included shooting a community member, pulling another community member to the ground and striking them repeatedly, and verbally abusing and intimidating onlookers. These incidents occurred in the middle of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) community, with no support provided afterwards, and during a heatwave and forcible decampment along Hastings Street.
We also write with serious concerns about the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) actions on July 30.
Summary of July 30 Incidents
On the morning of Saturday July 30, a member of the Downtown Eastside community alerted Pivot staff about a shooting in the neighbourhood, specifically at the southeast corner of Hastings and Columbia.
Following the incident, there was direct outcry from the community and a number of residents were recording the police. Their footage reveals an escalated and disturbing use of force in the aftermath of the shooting incident. Police conduct of concern includes:
- Police officers patrolling with militarized weapons;
- Police officers using abusive language directed at residents;
- Police officers wearing the “thin blue line” patch;
- Police officers knocking cellphones out of people’s hands; and
- Police officers grabbing an individual - who was not resisting - off the sidewalk, tackling him to the ground, and hitting and kneeing him after an alleged spitting incident.
Following the shooting, the VPD chose to release the name of the individual who was shot and tasered. As the “Joint Statement from Canadian Civilian Oversight Agencies on Release of Names” notes, civilian oversight agencies have chosen to never release names of people seriously injured or killed during interactions with police. This raises serious questions as to why VPD chose to release the individual’s name, and what investigative necessities were considered. Notably, VPD has not released names in the 28 other incidents of serious harm documented this year, nor have they released names in the 4 incidents of death documented this year. In sharp contrast, VPD did not release names or badge numbers of any involved officers.
Several hours after the police shooting, 2 Investigators from the Independent Investigations Office of BC (“IIO”) attended the site. During their time onsite, they spoke with several residents, in full view and within earshot of multiple VPD officers. Every person who chose to speak with IIO Investigators was fully visible, as was the location of their homes. By undertaking an investigation in this manner, Investigators placed residents at risk of retaliatory actions by VPD officers.
IIO Investigators must account for the conditions of affected persons and witnesses when carrying out their investigations, and ensure that they are protected against retaliation, surveillance, and criminalization by police agencies. No apparent efforts were made by IIO Investigators to offer safe and confidential space to provide witness statements.
Following their investigation, IIO and/or VPD representatives allowed blood and forensic materials (including gloves) to sit on the street in full view of the community. This was deeply disrespectful to all involved.
Furthermore, no culturally safe response or critical incident stress debriefing was made available to residents of Hastings Street in the immediate aftermath, although the VPD, IIO, and representatives of the City of Vancouver are well aware of the intergenerational, personal and ongoing trauma that residents of this community face. Instead, Our Streets Coalition (including members of the Defund 604 Network, VANDU, BC Association of People on Opiate Maintenance and Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War) was on the street, alongside a well-respected Community Elder who provided ceremony that day. This abandonment of people who endure, witness and survive police violence is unacceptable.
Context for the VPD and IIO’s actions on July 30
Since last fall, Pivot has been working in coalition with a number of organizations to bring attention to the conditions of people who rely on public space along Hastings Street. Through practices such as the street sweep, unhoused community members are criminalized for living in poverty.
Last week, on Monday July 25, Chief Karen Fry of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services issued a Fire Order effectively decamping the residents of Hastings Street, from the unit block of West Hastings to the 200 block of East Hastings. Following this announcement, and the planned enforcement of the Order in coming weeks, residents have been subject to immense stress, anxiety and fear as they are told to pack up and go, with no viable alternative.
The escalated, violent and hostile conduct of the VPD over this weekend intensifies the precarity of people who rely on public space. VPD officers have a well-documented track record that illustrates their failures to respond to community members in a respectful and competent manner. As the 2022 review conducted by the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act found, “there is a lack of trust of police due in part to a lack of transparency and accountability as well as a complaints process that is difficult to navigate.”
As the City of Vancouver plans for enforcement of a Fire Order, which will involve VPD personnel, police conduct over the weekend exacerbates an already-tense situation. Pivot continues to demand an alternative to the harmful practice of street sweeps, as well as the redistribution of police budgets to community-based crisis response that does not rely on the threats and realities of police use of force.
Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO File Number 2022-201)
In response to the shooting, the IIO has begun an investigation, and we trust the OPCC has also opened an investigation under s. 89 of the Police Act, since a community member has suffered serious harm.
We call on the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO to appoint a Civilian Monitor, pursuant to his statutory authority to review and assess the integrity of this investigation. If the person harmed is identified as Indigenous, we further call on the Chief Civilian Director to appoint an Indigenous Civilian Monitor.
We demand an explanation and response regarding the lack of safety protocols for witnesses, and the abandonment of blood and forensic materials on the street.
Vancouver Police Department
The VPD should immediately:
- Remove all officers involved in the shooting and physical or verbal abuse of community members from patrol on the DTES, pending an investigation;
- Explain why they released the name of the shooting victim; and
- Disarm the police in the DTES and redirect funds to community-based crisis response
As these concerns relate to ongoing policing of the DTES community, in light of pending enforcement of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services’ Order, we require a prompt response.
Justice For Jared
BC Civil Liberties Association
BC Civil Liberties Association
Pivot Legal Society
Criminalization & Policing Campaigner
Pivot Legal Society
A video showing some of the VPD’s concerning conduct that day can be found at: https://twitter.com/ashtrey5/status/1553471297354510336?s=20&t=I_YOrTPEr9LN937Kg0js4whttps://globalnews.ca/news/8973620/vancouver-hastings-street-tent-city/
Police Act section 38.08
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.