Pivot's Letter of Opposition regarding Motion B2 “Supporting Community-Led Public Safety in Mount Pleasant”

Pivot staff wrote to the City of Vancouver to oppose Motion B2, which would mean the creation of a new Community Policing Centre in Mount Pleasant. 


Kennedy Stewart, Mayor
Rebecca Bligh, Councillor
Christine Boyle, Councillor
Adriane Carr, Councillor
Melissa De Genova, Councillor
Lisa Dominato, Councillor
Pete Fry, Councillor
Colleen Hardwick, Councillor
Sarah Kirby-Yung, Councillor
Jean Swanson, Councillor
Michael Wiebe, Councillor

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Via Email

 

June 19, 2021


Re: Letter of Opposition regarding Motion B2 “Supporting Community-Led Public Safety in Mount Pleasant”


Dear Mayor & Council,

I am writing, on behalf of Pivot Legal Society, to oppose the forthcoming Motion B2 “Supporting Community-Led Public Safety in Mount Pleasant,”[1] submitted by Councillor Kirby-Yung.

This Motion advances the desire of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association (“MPBIA”) to establish a new Community Policing Centre, designed to serve the geographic boundaries of Mount Pleasant, “Cambie Street to Clark Drive, 16th to Great Northern Way, and would encompass Olympic Village to the waterfront.”

The Motion calls on City Council to approve the following resolutions:

  1. THAT Vancouver City Council supports the creation of a new Community Policing Centre for the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood.
  2. THAT Council direct staff to include consideration for funding support for a new Mount Pleasant Community Policing Centre in the 2022 draft operating budget and bring that forth as part of the 2022 budget presentation.

This Motion was brought to my attention by a resident of the Mount Pleasant area over the weekend. On Monday morning, myself and several residents of Vancouver who are known for their social justice work and advocacy met with staff from the MPBIA. A number of concerns were brought to the MPBIA, including:

  • Increased presence of police and police-adjacent organizations do not make communities safer
  • CPCs have ongoing relationships with the VPD, despite a non-profit governance structure and independent staff
  • Expanding CPCs is an indirect tool to expand police budgets

I support the demands set forth by the Defund 604 Network, opposing the creation of a new CPC in Mount Pleasant.

Increased presence of police and police-adjacent organizations do not make communities safer

Motion B2 references a “community safety survey” conducted by the MPBIA, however, it does not directly cite this report, nor provide any information about the survey’s methodology, demographics, or limitations. At the time of this submission, staff from the MPBIA had not yet provided me with this survey or a summary of its data.

In the reported results of the survey, the Motion reports “growing concerns about safety, and affirmed the desire for a service that encourages community engagement and support, and will aid in connecting people to health, community and social services.”[2] These are laudable goals.  It is unclear, however, why a CPC is the identified solution.

The issues identified by MPBIA – specifically health, community, and social services – would be better resourced by creating peer-led services, supporting low-barrier 24 hour drop-in spaces, expanding health and harm reduction programs, and developing sufficient housing and social programming in the Mount Pleasant area.

CPCs have ongoing relationships with the VPD

Motion B2 highlights the “independence” of community policing centres, and states that they are “operated, staffed, and governed by volunteer members of the community.”[3] In reality, however, CPCs work in partnership with the Vancouver Police.[4] The express purpose of CPCs is crime prevention and community safety programming, notably distinct from the issues identified by MPBIA.

As of Monday, July 19, VPD representatives had not met with staff from the MPBIA. MPBIA staff, therefore, were unable to provide clarity on the role of the VPD in a new CPC during our meeting, including specific details around funding agreements, data reporting, organizational partnerships, and information-sharing. I am troubled that an organization, such as the nascent Mount Pleasant Community Policing Centre, could receive support from City Council and be considered in 2022 budget deliberations despite these glaring gaps in information.

Expanding CPCs Indirectly Expands Policing

The Motion brought forth by Councillor Kirby-Yung is extremely disheartening, given the unanimous support that Council expressed around “Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Initiatives.” While that work has regrettably stalled due to a problematic framework set out by City Staff and Management, root-cause solutions should remain the priority of Council, rather than expanding partnership programs with the Vancouver Police Department.

The MPBIA cites a 25% population increase from 2011-16.[5] This includes an expansion of non-market affordable housing, including supportive housing. Despite a lack of safe and secure affordable housing, these inadequate options have sparked a wave of backlash. In April, one neighbourhood member cited concerns about “more vulnerable people are coming to his neighbourhood, and that they are being situated close to each other.”[6] In January 2021, a local coffeeshop owner expressed support for “a hotline for businesses to call to get immediate help for disruptions that involve situations such as aggressive panhandling or people locking themselves in washrooms.”[7] While these issues are distressing and compound retail workers’ responsibilities, they are not criminal issues whatsoever and reflect a sore lack of adequate, low-barrier resources.

A community policing centre is an overly simplistic solution to the conditions that have been raised by the MPBIA and other residents. To fully promote the health, wellbeing, and social inclusion of all residents of Mount Pleasant, the City as well as civic organizations, should undertake a fulsome review of local assets, inventory what services are currently available, and identified gaps for people who are experiencing adverse conditions, likely rooted in oppression and inequality. Motion B2 assumes that policing is best-suited to respond to a myriad of social and economic issues, rather than grappling with what interventions could be made available through defunding police and investing in community-led crisis intervention.

I hope that Council members will oppose the Motion “Supporting Community-Led Public Safety in Mount Pleasant,” when it is being decided upon. As a council that has unanimously supported decriminalizing poverty, support for motion B2 is counterproductive.

I am available to answer any questions you may have or provide further context to the issues I have identified.

I look forward to your response,

 

Meenakshi Mannoe, MSW RSW
Criminalization & Policing Campaigner
Pivot Legal Society

 

cc:

Defund 604 Network 
Neil Wyles, Executive Director, Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Association


[1] https://council.vancouver.ca/20210720/documents/b2.pdf

[2] https://council.vancouver.ca/20210720/documents/b2.pdf

[3] https://council.vancouver.ca/20210720/documents/b2.pdf

[4] https://vpd.ca/community/community-policing-centres/

[5] https://council.vancouver.ca/20210720/documents/b2.pdf

[6] https://www.citynews1130.com/2021/04/23/neighbourhood-watchdog-has-concerns-about-another-hotel-being-converted-into-social-housing-in-mount-pleasant/

[7] https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/street-disorder-reaches-tipping-point-for-main-street-businesses-in-mount-pleasant