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Advocacy groups question Vancouver street check review, call for ban

A woman holds a sign reading "Hold Police Accountable" near police officers watching as thousands of people gather for a peaceful demonstration in support of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet and protest against racism, injustice and police brutality, in Vancouver, on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
A woman holds a sign reading "Hold Police Accountable" near police officers watching as thousands of people gather for a peaceful demonstration in support of George Floyd and Regis Korchinski-Paquet and protest against racism, injustice and police brutality, in Vancouver, on Sunday, May 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Advocacy groups are questioning the validity of a Vancouver police board review of street checks after an incident reported by the authors didn’t make it into the published final copy.

The BC Civil Liberties Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Hogan’s Alley Society say street checks should be banned completely because they are an example of systemic racism and disproportionately affect Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour.

“Street checks represent a first interaction with police or one in a repeated pattern of harassment, but either way, they put people at risk of further being drawn into a system that criminalizes them,” said Chief Don Tom, vice-president of the union.

Street checks involve officers stopping a person and recording their information, regardless of whether an offence has been committed.

The groups shared a letter from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner that says an investigation is underway into the conduct of two officers alleged to have made insensitive comments while they were being observed for the review.

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Read more: Vancouver city council passes motion aimed to abolish street checks

The letter says one officer is alleged to have made inappropriate and racially insensitive remarks and another was alleged to have made inappropriate comments about vulnerable and marginalized people, had anger issues and was extremely rude to a member of the public.

Tom called it incredibly disturbing that “even while being watched so closely these officers felt protected in their prejudices.”

The Vancouver police department did not immediate respond to a request for comment.

Alvin Singh, director of communications for Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s office, said the mayor and council have no authority over the policies and procedures of the police department. Those decisions are made at the police board and provincial levels, he said.

“That said, the board does need to take into account the wishes of local government when it sets policy, and that is why he will be introducing his motion.”

Vancouver mayor will present motion to call to an end street checks
Vancouver mayor will present motion to call to an end street checks

Stewart’s motion will ask council to direct the police department to stop street checks.

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“If it passes, it will provide the board with further instructions – but it will be up to them to take action,” Singh said.

The police complaint commissioner’s letter says the conduct was included in a draft version of the review.

The advocacy groups are calling for the public release of all versions of the report.

“What good is a report reviewing police conduct if the very conduct under review is being omitted, hidden and ignored,” Tom said.