Review of street check policies stems from the BC Police Commissioner’s report – BC News

A man’s complaint of being stopped and asked if he was “Abdul” by two officers in New Westminster has prompted a provincial-wide consequence in street checks by the city police.

Officers’ alleged actions in July 2020 and the New Westminster Police Board’s follow-up on the case were mentioned as part of a key recommendation in the recent annual report of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Street checks should be in line with best cultural security practices and address the needs of indigenous and racialized people who may come into contact with New Westminster police, said Commissioner Clayton Pecknold in his report, which was presented to the Legislative Assembly.

Street checks are defined as any voluntary interaction between a police officer and a person that is more than a casual conversation and that impedes the person’s mobility.

“The complainant felt they were racially profiled and thought the police stopped them because of race,” Pecknold’s report said.

The New Westminster Police Board, which initially reviewed the complaint, found that it was an “unfortunate incident” that did not constitute a street check under the policy, “but rather an investigative detention based on an honest but erroneous belief that the Complainant was a person who could be arrested for criminal offenses, ”it said.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said a retired provincial judge was appointed to review the case and he found the officers did not commit any offense.

The police department’s street check policies were revised in December 2019 in accordance with the province’s police standard, and all frontline officers received mandatory training before they came into force in January 2020, the report states.

After the man asked the Complaints Commissioner to review the Police Department’s decision, the commissioner said the board would benefit from a review of its street check policies by “a consultant, expert or organization independent of the New Westminster Police Department and the police more generally.”

In its response to Pecknold, the board said it would prefer the Department of Public Security to take the lead with street checks because of its involvement in the case and the need for provincial-wide coherence.

The New Westminster Police Department said it was “in tune” with the police department’s position on the need for provincial-wide coherence in street checks.

The BC Police Complaints Commission is a civilian, independent office of the Legislative Assembly that oversees and oversees complaints and investigations involving municipal police. The office is responsible for administering discipline and litigation under the Police Act.

Veronica Martisius of the BC Civil Liberties Association helped the man file the complaint against the New Westminster Department.

Statistics have shown that street checks disproportionately affect those who are native, black or colored, Martisius said.

“We’ve been calling for a ban on street checks for a while now.”

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, who was not available for an interview, said in a statement that it is crucial to maintain public confidence in ensuring that police provide services in a fair and impartial manner.

“A recent review of street check activities highlights the need for a broader look at police policies and practices related to street checks, and in response to this, my ministry will evaluate compliance with police stop standards across the province,” Farnworth said.

“While conducting this review, my ministry will also work to identify and inform whether further changes to police standards are needed.”

Pecknold said each police department is required to have a policy that complies with the provincial street check standard.

“So what I’m interested in learning is what comes out of the Department of Public Security ‘review and compliance evaluation of this provincial police standard,” he said in an interview.

The recommendations from his office are not binding, he noted.

“I would say that by and large they are listening and they are responding. But they do not always necessarily agree with our recommendations,” Pecknold said.

“The provincial government is generally very responsive to our recommendations and will act on them.”

One of the biggest recommendations his office has made over the past few years was that the Vancouver Police Department should review its street check policy, Pecknold said.

An audit conducted by a consulting firm and sent to Vancouver’s board earlier this year showed that the number of street checks had dropped by 94 percent between January and December last year compared to the same time frame in 2019.

The department’s new policy, which went into effect in January 2020, says street checks cannot be “random, arbitrary, biased or based solely on identity factors such as – but not limited to – race or ethnicity,” the police audit said.

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