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

Gloria Hamilton stands in front of a home in Maple Ridge’s Academy Park subdivision, which recently sold for well over the asking price. (Ronan O’Doherty/ The News)
Bidding wars driving up real estate in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows

Price of houses up some 20 per cent over last year

The Maple Ridge Branch of the SPCA received a donation of more than $4,500 from B&F Automotive after their NYA fundraiser. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge auto shop organizes virtual bingo to raise funds for SPCA

B&F Automotive’s New Year’s Eve fundraiser amassed more than $4,500 for the animal welfare charity

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of March 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Suzie Kruse recently checked out the Haney Wharf. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Waterfront popular with shutterbugs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read