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

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

(Hal Brindley - Dreamstime)
Enderby farmers caught between coyotes and bylaw tickets

The Smith family is stuck in a Catch-22 between protecting their livestock and incurring noise complaints

Barley Station Brewpub’s owners Stu and Kathy Bradford and longtime head chef Wally Bonn celebrated 15 years in business on Saturday, Jan. 23. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Snapshot: Salmon Arm’s Barley Station Brewpub celebrates 15th year in business

The highwayside pub is lookign forward to the future.

The Salmon Arm Elks Lodge kept up their charitable giving despite COVID-19 restrictions by holding a successful 50/50 draw. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm Elks support charitable giving with succesful 50/50 draw

The winner of the draw took home over $4,000.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

The North Okanagan Naturalists' Club completed its annual swan and eagle counts Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Claude Rioux - NONC photo)
North Okanagan bird count shows decrease in swan and eagle numbers

Trumpeter swans were down 61 per cent from last year’s count; eagles down 14 per cent

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

Most Read