Vancouver’s police chief
wants proposed civilian agency
to broaden its mandate

Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 6, 2010

Vancouver Jim Chu police chief is urging the provincial government
to expand the mandate of the proposed civilian oversight agency
to investigate a all complaints against police in B.C.
Photo: Ethan Baron, Postmedia News

VANCOUVER — Vancouver’s police chief is urging the provincial government to expand the mandate of the proposed civilian oversight agency to investigate all complaints against police in B.C.

“I strongly urge the government to consider expanding the mandate of this proposed agency to handle all complaints against police, not just in-custody deaths or serious injury,” Chief Jim Chu said in a statement released today.

“While we are convinced that police officers are able to conduct competent, unbiased and effective internal investigations, we are also aware of the findings of the Braidwood and Davies Commissions of Inquiry,” the chief said.

“Ensuring all complaints against police are investigated by a civilian agency will enhance public confidence regarding investigations of allegations against police officers.”

Chu pointed out that if the IIO only investigates police-involved incidents of death and serious injury, this would only translate into an average of four incidents a year for Vancouver police.

Last June 18, Attorney General and Solicitor General Mike de Jong announced that the province will create a new civilian-led unit, called the Independent Investigation Office (IIO), to investigate all independent municipal police — and RCMP-related deaths and serious incidents across B.C.

Expanding the mandate would allow IIO investigators to gain more experience and expertise by investigating a wider range of incidents, Chu said.

He also pointed out that such a move would eliminate the need for the current Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), which currently only has the mandate to involve complaints against municipal police

“Expanding the mandate of the IIO would not only improve public confidence in the investigation of allegations against police officers, it would allow every police agency to concentrate more resources on investigating crime,” Chu said.

Chu is holding a news conference today at 1 p.m. to discuss the issue.

Since the introduction of the new Police Act six months ago, the cost for Professional Standards investigations in the VPD has increased by 46% or $804,000 annually, the police chief said.

The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police has already supported Commissioner Braidwood’s recommendation to create the IIO agency.

The government responded to Braidwood’s report by saying it wants to bring the RCMP under the same civilian complaints process as municipal police in B.C.

Currently, complaints against the RCMP are handled by the Ottawa-based Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, an independent agency created by Parliament, which oversees the CPC.

In a press conference Wednesday, Chu said police complaints are eating up more resources for the Vancouver police department.

He said the VPD received 241 complaints last year but had received that many by July this year.

VPD budgeted $1.7 million this year to investigate complaints against police but because of the increased volume the budget has shot up to $2.5 million and seven more officers had to be assigned to the unit, Chu said.

“We’ve told the solicitor general we have this position,” the chief said.

“I think it’s also important the community understand our position.”

He said even some trivial complaints can eat up a tremendous amount of staff resources, which would cost less if investigated by civilians.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is backing Chu’s call for broadening the mandate of the proposed agency.

“As long as police continue to investigate police, no matter what the incident, there will always be a public perception of bias,” the mayor said in a statement.

“The province’s creation of an IIO is a good start, but it does not go far enough. Having civilians investigate all forms of police complaints, not just police-related deaths or injuries, is the right way to maintain trust and accountability between the police and the public.”

Given the number of serious police incidents across B.C. in recent years that have shaken the public’s confidence, it’s crucial we strive for the highest levels of accountability in our policing system, Robertson said.

What’s behind Chief Jim Chu’s proposal?