B.C. Chief: Revamped VPD ‘carding’ policy had ‘zero consultation’ with Indigenous communities

Ali Pitargue / January 23rd, 2020

Chief Don Tom and BCCLA Policy Director Meghan McDermott speak to press about the VPD’s new street check policy. (Ali Pitargue / BCIT News)

A B.C. chief spoke out against the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) reformed policy on street checks and said it’s rushed and does not go far enough.

Chief Don Tom, the Vice President of the B.C. Union of Chiefs, said that the Vancouver Police failed to establish an inclusive consultation process during the drafting stages of their ‘Street Checks and Police Stops’ policy.

Street checks, otherwise known as ‘carding,’ refers to the practice of officers randomly approaching individuals and possibly asking for identification. A government report showed that there is an overrepresentation of Indigenous persons who were stopped by police.

Tom noted that while members of the B.C. Union of Chiefs were part of the advisory board, the VPD failed to further reach out to First Nations communities.

“There has been zero consultation with First Nations communities. I think that the writing’s on the wall that this is being rushed. And I think there’s even still some gray areas as to how they’re accountable.” – Chief Don Tom, VP of the B.C. Union of Chiefs

Tom cited the Bank of Montreal incident where a 12-year-old Indigenous girl and her grandfather were arrested after attempting to open a bank account. He said that the incident exhibited the VPD’s strained relationship with marginalized communities in the Greater Vancouver area.

BCCLA calls for more accountability

Chief Tom joined members of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) gathered outside the VPD building on Thursday to address VPD’s ‘Street Checks and Police Stops’ policy. They called for stricter accountability measures for officers who breach the guidelines.

LaToya Farrell, a member of BCCLA’s staff council for policy, drew attention to implementing a comprehensive complaint process for individuals who were treated unfairly and reliable ways to track street check data. She also acknowledged that there are barriers, even with an improved complaint system.

“We recognize that people who are experiencing this kind of street check behavior on a daily basis and may not feel comfortable coming forward. We also recognize folks who might be struggling with being identified by police in their neighbourhoods and are consistently street checked over and over again. They think that there may be some ramifications coming forward complaining.” – LaToya Farrell, BCCLA Staff Council for Policy

Meghan McDermott, the policy director for BCCLA, said that it is unclear how an individual violated by street checks would lodge a file to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC).

“It’s unclear that you could even file a complaint for misconduct if the (street check) policy isn’t followed (by police). We don’t know if those complaints would succeed. Secondly, even if it could, the police haven’t been properly trained or are following policies that are a bit unclear, then they’re left off the hook.” – Meghan McDermott, BCCLA Policy Director

BCCLA Staff Council LaToya Farrell told reporters that a more detailed complaint process is needed to supplement VPD’s street check policy. (Ali Pitargue / BCIT News)

McDermott noted that BCCLA was part of the street check policy’s advisory board, but echoed Chief Tom’s notion that the process was rushed. She recalled that the organization was told that the VPD did not have time to check with the communities, accusing the VPD of taking shortcuts.