Director of police services Clayton Pecknold speaks during a press conference at the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., Monday, December 19, 2016. Accessibility to British Columbia’s municipal police complaints process can and should be improved, its commissioner says, as the office faces criticism from both legal advocates and the head of Vancouver’s police union. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Director of police services Clayton Pecknold speaks during a press conference at the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., Monday, December 19, 2016. Accessibility to British Columbia’s municipal police complaints process can and should be improved, its commissioner says, as the office faces criticism from both legal advocates and the head of Vancouver’s police union. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Change needed for access, outreach: B.C. police complaints commissioner

The office only investigates the 14 municipal police departments in B.C., not the RCMP

Accessibility to British Columbia’s municipal police complaints process can and should be improved, its commissioner says, as the office faces criticism from both legal advocates and the head of Vancouver’s police union.

Clayton Pecknold, who was appointed to the role in 2019, said in an interview he’s aware of criticism over how his office responds to complaints against local police forces and officers.

“We want to expand our ability to be accessible and our ability to lower the barriers to the police complaints process,” he said. “We absolutely want to improve that.”

Part of the issue, he said, is making it clear that his office only investigates the 14 municipal police departments in B.C., not the RCMP.

His office is also grappling with tackling underlying issues in police forces that can lead to misconduct in situations such as street checks and the mishandling of investigations into sexualized violence and relationship violence.

The commissioner’s office is different from the other provincial police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, which can recommend charges to the Crown after investigating officer-involved deaths and incidents of serious harm.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner investigates misconduct, can compel officers to testify and reports to the B.C. legislature.

“Given the importance of the dialogue in respect to police accountability, we want to be a little bit more active in the public understanding our role,” he said.

Pecknold said he was shocked to learn that family members of a complainant didn’t know what his office does or that it would be investigating the complaint.

“It’s something that I take seriously and I want to think about how we close that gap,” he said.

That accountability comes with criticism from those being investigated: police officers.

ALSO READ: Man killed in police shooting on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Ralph Kaisers, the president of both the BC Police Association and the Vancouver Police Union, said his officers have worked to have a less adversarial relationship with the Independent Investigations Office, but the same can’t be said of the relationship with Pecknold’s office.

“There is little to no trust whatsoever in the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner by way of police members in this province,” Kaisers said.

Kaisers said investigations are an onerous process for officers to go through, and more oversight is needed of the complaints commissioner.

“It turns into ‘This is what was being investigated, but aha you forgot to fill out this form,’” he said. “It’s like a big fishing net that gets thrown out once someone complains about something.”

Investigations need to be put into separate categories, such as minor and major infractions, Kaisers said, which would help speed up the process and reduce the stress on the officers involved.

Kaisers said he and his union strongly believe in police oversight and accountability, but they don’t like the complaints commissioner’s processes.

Pecknold said he agrees with Kaisers’ suggestions of separating complaints into major and minor categories, but reinforced that his duty is to the public.

“It’s certainly disappointing to hear that’s his view,” Pecknold said in reaction to the lack of trust from police in his office. “But, at the end of the day, it’s important that the public have confidence in the oversight of police.”

Officers should want to uphold that public trust, he added.

“The reality is that the public have to have trust in their police and have to have trust that their police will be held accountable,” Pecknold said.

Harsha Walia, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the difficulties in making a complaint should be addressed immediately.

Many people who file complaints are unclear of the role of the commissioner, and better messaging is needed for what he can and can’t investigate, she said.

“The number of people who are able to access police accountability mechanisms … is very small,” she said. “The most significant challenge continues to be the access to justice.”

Pecknold admits the timeliness of his investigations can be improved, part of which could be supported by the provincial government.

“Legislative reform would be helpful to improve that timeliness, and that’s in the hands of government.”

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A historic home near Granny’s Fruit Stand in Summerland was the home of two of the community’s mayors. J.R. Campbell and Don Cameron both lived at the home on Highway 97 in Summerland, but not at the same time. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Historic house was home to two Summerland mayors

Building along Highway 97 was constructed in 1906

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has given first reading to its 2021 budget. (RDOS image)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen budget to rise by 2.8 per cent

Impact of budget increase will not be the same in all communities or electoral areas

Hedley residents are advised to not drink the water until a pump in one of its wells is fixed. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Hedley residents under do-not-consume-water order due to arsenic levels

Residents in Hedley remain under a do-not-consume-water order, due to higher than… Continue reading

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The Oliver Fire Department’s “new” truck was built with the help of various local companies. It was completed Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Oliver Fire Dept. / Facebook)
It takes a town to build a truck: The Oliver Fire Department gets creative

Ingenuity and local connections played an important role in the upgrading fire truck

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

A ‘Notice of trespass and personal liability’ has been ‘served’ by a mysterious group called the Sovereign Republic of British Columbia to several Okanagan mayors.
Mysterious group serves notice to Okanagan mayors, demanding end to ‘unlawful’ COVID rules

26-page letter sent by ‘Sovereign Republic of British Columbia’

Vernon’s Ellison Provincial Park has everything the outdoor enthusiast could wish for. (Ribbons of Green photo)
Upgrades trail in for Okanagan campgrounds

Bear Creek and Ellison improvements underway

Thirty-four unionized workers represented by MoveUp started rotating job action at VantageOne Credit Union's two Vernon locations Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Workers are calling for basic job protection and fair security. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
VantageOne staff urged to take tentative deal

It’s been more than one month since union workers went on strike

(File photo)
Fraud alert issued by North Okanagan police

Busy start to year with more than 30 frauds reported already

Most Read