A committee charged with reforming the police in British Columbia has recommended that the province stop using the RCMP and create its own police force.
The special committee, made up of provincial politicians from all parties, unanimously agreed that a provincial police force would create a more consistent standard for police response, training and oversight across BC
“It’s a complete overhaul of the watch to make sure they’re accountable, to make sure there’s transparency and to make sure the public trust remains in the watch,” said committee member Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
in a report Released Thursday, the committee said the change would modernize policing to better reflect what the people of BC need from law enforcement.
The report, called Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia, included 11 recommendations that the committee said would improve policing and accountability in the province.
The committee was appointed amid widespread awareness of systemic racism, a demand for greater accountability, and questions about responses to mental health and addiction issues.
Apparent lack of confidence in ‘meeting after meeting’: MLA
The committee heard from more than 1,800 people and organizations about their experiences with the police, including a general lack of trust in those services.
“There was a lot of testimony from people saying they were wary of how current policing works in the province, and so I think the recommendation reflects what we heard in meetings and gatherings,” Olsen said.
There are 13 independent forces in BC The RCMP polices the rest of the province, including almost all of rural BC
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the province has begun contacting its partners to discuss the recommendations.
“The recommendations … echo our government’s belief that everyone deserves equal treatment from the police,” Farnworth, who is not a cross-party committee member, said in a statement.
“This has not always been the case for many indigenous, black and other people of color. Public trust requires that the provision of police services is fair, equitable and responsive to all British Columbians.”
Vice President Dan Davies, BC Liberal MLA for Peace River North, said the use of police as the “default first responders” for mental health and other “complex social issues” was seen as a major issue. He said the committee saw the need to give more resources to other services, such as social workers, to deal with such cases.
In terms of a timeline, the report said the recommended police reform would take years and multiple governments to implement. A similar committee-led reform in New Zealand took a decade, Olsen said.
The full list of recommendations includes:
- That BC transition to a new provincial police service governed by a new Community Policing and Safety Act;
- That indigenous communities have direct participation in their police services;
- That the government “create and adequately fund an ongoing response to mental health, addiction, and other complex social problems” and that mental health services be integrated into 911 options;
- Reform police funding models to make them more “fair and equitable” for municipalities; Y
- Require police services to collect and publicly report race and other demographic data to address systemic racism within policing.