Last week, West Coast LEAF provided written submissions to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act. After public outcry over systemic discrimination in policing, there has been a groundswell of demand for change. The BC Legislature has appointed the Special Committee to make recommendations on reforming policing throughout the province.
We are urging the Special Committee to prioritize substantive equality by addressing the distinct needs of, and calls for action by, those communities that have been disproportionately harmed by law enforcement and excluded from police protection.
Interlocking forms of marginalization must be addressed. Black and Indigenous women, women of colour, trans, Two-Spirit, and non-binary people, and/or women with precarious immigration status or fewer financial means, face distinct issues in police interactions and in accessing justice and accountability for police misconduct.
To the extent that policing continues to be given a role to play in public safety, we identify 10 recommendations to respond to enduring failures of equity and accountability in policing.
We believe the reform must assure Indigenous autonomy over policing. We emphasize the calls of Indigenous Nations to guarantee Indigenous peoples’ decision-making powers when it comes to services provided in their communities. Critically, we urge the Special Committee to implement the Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We also urge the Province to prioritize rebuilding the community sector and provincial systems. While police budgets have increased exponentially over the past decade, provincial programs and community services, especially at feminist and anti-violence organizations, have been systematically defunded. The province must invest in access to justice and legal aid, mental health support, and health and justice-sector services for survivors of gender-based violence. We are joining the calls that police be de-tasked where possible, and that funding that would otherwise go to policing be put towards systems that strengthen and support communities on their own terms.
Our submissions support the demands of organizations and communities that many discriminatory policing practices be stopped. We echo their demand to ban police street checks, which have a severely disproportionate impact on Indigenous and Black people. The pattern of police wrongfully arresting and criminalizing survivors of domestic violence must also come to an end.
We also call for regular equity audits of police departments. Police departments must be required to indicate real outcomes in advancing substantive equality by tackling discrimination at a system-level as a condition of future of funding.
We also demand a thorough overhaul of the police accountability process. The model of “police investigating police” is broken and must end. Discriminatory actions by police must be considered misconduct, including the failure to investigate or the premature dismissal of an investigation because of bias.
Additionally, we recommend that BIPOC and gender-diverse civilian monitors, including monitors with expertise in sexual and domestic violence oversee, participate, and intervene in police misconduct investigations that involve these communities.
Read our full written submissions to learn about all 10 recommendations.
We invite any comments and questions about our submissions to help inform our advocacy on the future of policing in BC. We invite you to fill out our feedback form, which will remain open until May 16, 2021.